LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – Days after Las Cruces Police released body camera video of the deadly police shooting of Amelia Baca, the family of a 75-year old woman is promising lawsuits and demanding criminal charges be filed against the officer who shot Baca. The family made the demand through their attorney, Sam Bregman, in a news conference Thursday afternoon.
“Let me blunt, Amelia Baca was executed by the Las Cruces Police Department on April 16th of this year,” Bregman said Thursday, speaking in a room filled with Baca family members. “This should have never happened, it didn’t need to happen.”
Baca was shot and killed by Las Cruces Police on a Saturday as officers responded to a 911 call at Baca’s home. According to Las Cruces Police, Baca was said to have suffered from dementia, was armed with a knife and threatened to kill the 911 caller, who was one of Baca’s daughters. Bregman said Thursday, police dispatchers and responding officers were aware of those details before arriving at the home.
Family members had locked themselves in rooms, and others, including a five-year-old, escaped out a window. When police arrived, two women, including an adult granddaughter, calmly walked out the door and asked police to take it easy on the elderly woman.
Highlighting and playing video released by Las Cruces Police this week, Bregman said the police officer who shot Baca did so within 38 seconds of arriving on scene. Bregman accused officers of failing to attempt to de-escalate the situation before the shooting.
“We are respectfully demanding that the [Doña Ana County] District Attorney charge this police officer with murder,” Bregman announced Thursday. “The Baca Family will also be filing suits in federal court and state court for the violation of her constitutional rights.”
“Instead of assessing the situation, as they are supposedly trained and ordered to do, this police officer shot this 75-year old grandma twice, execution style,” Bregman said. “This yelling was all done in English. Ms. Baca is a Spanish speaker and does not understand English.”
During the news conference, Bregman also presented the department’s protocol for these situations. “Move slowly, being careful to avoid exciting the person. Provide reassurance that the police are there to help and appropriate care will be provided,” said Bregman.
One of Baca’s daughter’s spoke of her mother Thursday. “She was to that point in her life where she enjoyed just having her family around her,” the daughter said.
Elaborating on the lawsuits he said the family was planning to file, Bregman said the state court lawsuit would likely address wrongful death and civil rights violations under the New Mexico Civil Rights Act. The federal lawsuit would likely surround alleged violations of the 4th and 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Bregman said.
“You can’t walk up to someone’s front door when they’re having a mental health crisis, they have dementia and shoot them after talking to them, after yelling at them for 38 seconds,” Bregman said. “That is a violation of your constitutional rights.”
So far, no criminal charges have been filed in the case. Bregman declined to confirm the name of the officer who shot Baca. Local officials also have yet to release the officer’s name.
It is unclear if the officer involved in that shooting is back on the force. After the shooting, on April 22, Las Cruces Police said the officer who shot Baca was placed on administrative leave.
The American Civil Liberties Union has already asked why Las Cruces Police did not call in their crisis intervention team to escalate the situation. The department hasn’t provided answers outside of an April 22 news release. The department did not respond to KRQE News 13’s request for comment about the case earlier this week.
The shooting is still being investigated by the Dona Ana County Officer-Involved Incident Task Force.
Editor’s Note: The below video of the news conference is unedited and contains brief moments of graphic language and graphic audio of the shooting. Viewer discretion is advised.