ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It took a couple of years but the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office says it’s now caught up on the backlog of police shooting cases. Now, it’s looking for more special prosecutors to make sure it doesn’t fall behind again.
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These special prosecutors closed cases dating back to 2013, determining if any charges should be filed against law enforcement in the shootings.
It was October 2013 when Christopher Chase stole a police car and went on a shooting spree across Albuquerque. As KRQE News 13 has reported, he ended up shooting three officers and a deputy before police ultimately shot and killed him.
A special prosecutor for the district attorney’s office found that no charges will be filed against any of the APD officers involved, stating they returned fire under “reasonable fear” that chase intended to live up to the name he had tattooed on his knuckles: “cop killer.”
This was among a backlog of 36 shootings involving the Albuquerque Police Department, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service. The DA’s office tripled its number of special prosecutors back in 2017 to help, and today said it took about two years to catch up on the backlog and incoming cases. Special prosecutor Michael Cox explained why the older cases can be hard to tackle.
“You’re looking back in time trying to recreate what happened, people move, witnesses move. You want to talk to somebody at OMI. Sometimes, they’re gone. Often they’ve moved on to another job,” Cox stated.
Now, the DA’s office is once again looking to at least double its number of special prosecutors to handle the current caseload.
“If we could find two or three it would be fine. That would give us five, basically. That’s enough to keep up with what’s coming in,” Cox said.
This year, the DA is reporting a dozen OIS cases, including one from BCSO and the rest involving APD. The office also has at least another half dozen cases to review from last year.
Cox says that the initial backlog started under former DA Kari Brandenburg because they were understaffed. He also says the reports now are much shorter and easier for the public to understand.
The DA’s office website lists 84 cases it has closed since 2013 involving APD, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, New Mexico State Police, Rio Rancho Police, Probation and Parole, and the U.S. Marshals Service.