Albuquerque Police Department Killings Continue

Ashley7
Family and friends constructed a descanso, or roadside memorial, at the intersection of Paseo del Norte and Eagle Ranch Road on Albuqeurque’s west side to remember Ashley Browder, killed last month in a car accident caused by APD Sergeant Adam Casaus. The accident, and Casaus’s culpability, is currently under investigation by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s department. Photo by David Correia

By DAVID CORREIA

Ashley Browder was 21 years old, a member of the Air National Guard, and a passenger in a car driven by her sister that was rammed by a police cruiser driven by APD police Sgt. Adam Casaus.

Casaus, off duty at the time of the accident, claimed he was in pursuit of a DWI suspect at 1:30 AM on February 10 of last month when he entered a red light at high speed at the intersection of Paseo del Norte and Eagle Ranch Road on Albuquerque’s west-side. Ashley Browder died at the scene. The driver of Ashley’s car, her younger sister Lindsey Browder, 19, suffered a spinal fracture and other injuries. Casaus had only minor injuries.

Some reports suggest Casaus was travelling in excess of 70 miles per hour when he entered the intersection. The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s department is now investigating the accident after Casaus’s initial statements at the scene proved inconsistent with subsequent evidence.

Eye-witness reports confirm that Casaus was using his flashers, but not his siren, as he initially claimed. In addition, Casaus entered against the red light without first clearing the intersection (officers are required to use lights and sirens and reduce speed when entering an intersection against a red light) in an apparent violation of department policy.

Also his claim that he was in pursuit of a DWI suspect now appears shaky. According to police logs, Casaus did not report spotting a DWI suspect, engaging in pursuit, or even activating his emergency equipment.

He went off duty the night of the accident at 11 PM and was not heard from again by dispatch until he reported the accident.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff is tight-lipped on the investigation. Casaus has been placed on desk duty during the investigation.

Commenting on a KRQE.com article on the discrepancies in Casaus’s story, Lindsay Browder wrote “I am truly amazed on how twisted this story has become. You can make up whatever you wish but may I remind everyone what matters here. We lost something that will never be replaced, my sister and best friend Ashley.”

The investigation is expected to continue for another three to four weeks before it’s turned over to the District Attorney’s Office for review and possible charges. In the past, cases forwarded to the DA’s office involving police investigated in fatal shootings, for example, have been treated differently than regular DA investigations. The Albuquerque Journal’s Jeff Proctor has extensively covered the dubious practice of DA “investigative grand juries” in which the DA relies on a special and parallel grand jury procedure designed specifically to adjudicate cases involving police wrongdoing.  

Keri Brandenberg, the current Bernalillo County DA told the Journal that the special procedure is in the best interest of the public because “everything is done under oath. That’s a huge benefit to all the parties, and it’s in the interest of justice. If we did an internal review, nothing would be done under oath. … It may be that the public is denied that. I think that would be a shame.”

According to a Journal investigation, however, the special grand jury is in the best interest of accused cops. In the more than two decades it has been in place, no police officer has ever been indicted, even in cases where officers have been later fired for their actions.

Ray Twohig, a local civil rights attorney, told the Journal that the procedure “looks to me like a device that’s designed to give police a pass on shootings. The public should have no confidence whatsoever in this process — there’s no independent investigation … The goal is: ‘Let’s not indict any cops.’ ”

That procedure exonerated APD officer Bret Lampiris-Tremba for the fatal January 2010 shooting of Kenneth Ellis outside a 7-Eleven on Albuquerque’s east side.

According to eye witnesses, Lampiris-Tremba, who prior to killing Ellis had been suspended for lying during an investigation, once Tasered a motorist in a routine traffic stop and accidentally discharged his weapon Barney Fife-style in the Southeast Substation, turned to his partner after killing Ellis and muttered, “Was that me?”

The city’s independent review officer found the shooting unjustified, but Lampiris-Tremba was cleared of any wrongdoing by Internal Affairs and by the special police-friendly grand jury.

Despite the best efforts of APD to white-wash that shooting, including public efforts by APD chief Ray Schultz to paint the Iraq War Veteran Ellis as a dangerous criminal, Ellis’s family filed a wrongful death suit. The city tried to quash the suit but late last month State District Judge Shannon Bacon ruled in the family’s favor, concluding that APD officer Bret Lampiris-Tremba violated Kenneth Ellis’s Fourth Amendment rights. A jury trial is scheduled to begin on Monday.

The Current US Department of Justice investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department (17 people killed by police since 2010) and the recent revelation that internal investigations have been largely efforts to find ways to exonerate cops rather than investigate them, suggests the possibility that Casaus may not get the free pass he expects and the family of Ashley Browder may get the justice it deserves.

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11 comments

  1. Thanks for keeping these issues in the public eye. I’m wondering if they tested this officer for drugs or alcohol?

    • They did. He was given a blood test at the scene. It will take weeks for the results to return, and a recent report suggests that the BCSO considers the test to be inadmissable in any investigation. I haven’t been able to determine yet why that would be.

  2. Yet report also says he didn’t have time to call dispatch from siren to crash. Had they been hit by a drunk driver it would have been a different story. Why were the girls out at that hour and why did they not follow law and yield to emergency vehicle? No matter the spin it was a tragic accident in which everyone is suffering. An innocent person may or may not have c:aused the death of an innocent person in which both parties could have taken precautions .

    • The question of why the girls didn’t yield is at the heart of the investigation. Casaus said he had lights and sirens on but eye witnesses said he had only lights on. Regardless, department policy dictates that officers never enter an intersection against the lights without first clearing the intersection. This means coming to a complete stop if necessary. Whether Casaus had sirens blaring or not, he failed to adhere to this requirement. This makes your question about the girls responsibility moot here. The other question you pose is extremely troubling. “Why were the girls out at this hour?” you ask. Really? You’re really asking that question? Let’s consider your logic here: your question implies that there are acceptable and unacceptable reasons for people to be out at night. News to me. Probably news to you as well. I mean, really, have you ever left your house late at night and asked yourself, “hmm, I wonder if this is acceptable that I’m driving over to my friend’s house at night?” Shall we ask the family your question as part of an investigation of the accident? And if we’re not satisfied with the answer, shall we blame the girls? What reasons would we consider acceptable for them to be out at this hour? Would it be OK for them to be merely on a drive? Out to the Smith’s for ice cream? Back home from a party with old friends? If you insist that there are unacceptable reasons for an adult to go out at night, who should we trust to establish these acceptable versus unacceptable reasons? Adam Casaus? You?

      • Seriously? You really asked what they were doing out late at night? Shame on you! This family has been through something maybe you have never dealt with, Losing a loved one. My beautiful young nieces did nothing wrong I assure you! The issue here is We lost our beloved Ashley, and Lindsay lost her sister and her best friend. Their parents lost their daughter, their Aunts and Uncles lost their Neice. Their cousins lost their cousin and the list goes on, Grandparents and Friends. Maybe your comment should Ask more along the lines as to what Sgt Casaus was doing? Thank you LAJICARTIA for your response!!!

    • In regard to your comment “Why were the girls out at this hour?” can you explain your rational behind that thought?
      Are you saying that girls out at that hour deserve to die? That perhaps they were “asking for it”?
      You also say “had they been hit by a drunk driver it would have been a different story” …Are you so sure the police officer wasn’t drunk or impaired in some other capacity? Because HE was also out at that hour which seems suspicious to you or does that not count for males?
      And think of this, if you were out at that hour, which I am sure you would never be, what do you think your reaction time would be if a vehicle were coming straight at you at 70 plus miles an hour that did not have sirens or lights on as the eye witness stated?
      I want you to think about that last statement very hard in your mind, picture if you will, picture someone you love in that situation and tell me what would you do……if you were out at that hour……….

  3. Just because Adam Casaus is a cop shouldn’t mean he gets preferential treatment, cop or not he should be held accountable for his actions just like any civilian would be! As always tell the truth like your mother taught you… honesty is the best policy. If you, Adam Casuas made a bad decision be a man and own up to it. To me it sounds like alot of our public officials, always trying to pass the buck, What were the girls doing out that late at night? What were you Adam Casuas doing out that late at night?

  4. The morale of the story is that everyone makes mistakes and everyone is human. This could have happened to anyone of us!
    Based on the information channeled through the media outlets (however reliable that may be) Sgt. Casaus failed to engage his siren which is against protocol and the girls failed to yield to an emergency vehicle which is a state law. We were not there and do not have all the facts. We do not know what truly happened. I don’t know about you but I have not always followed the law 100% of the time and it is easy to become distracted.
    We should not judge people on their actions when 1) we do not know all the facts 2) it is really none of our business. This is between the parties involved. I have never been in a car accident where a life was taken. I cannot say I understand what the Browder’s are going through and I cannot say I understand what the Sgt is going through. To make judgments because neither party has commented is ridiculous. I am sure that their attorneys are advising them and again, it is none of our business. Given that this was a car accident it seems logical to me that neither party purposefully set out to cause harm.
    Why anyone was out at that time is not the issue. We are American citizens and we have a legal right to go anywhere we want at anytime we want. As I recall it was reported that all parties submitted to a drug/alcohol test. This is not a scandal and shouldn’t be made into one to make for more interesting reading.
    I believe in God and I know that every incident in a person’s life has an impact and a lesson. We don’t understand why bad things happen to good people, it just does. My hope is that someone will read this and stop bashing and harassing both of the families. If this happened to you would you respond well to cyber bullying and false speculation?

    • “Mistake” Are you serious? This is not about balancing your checkbook and forgetting to deduct an item! This is nothing less than ivoluntary manslaughter!
      Please explain how the girls were suppose to yield to Sgt. Casaus when they did not even see him coming? Way to add insult to injury!

  5. Recently I went through an intersection at Guadalupe and Paseo de Peralta. I had just cleared the intersection when I heard sirens. When I looked in my rear view mirror I saw an ambulance that had just missed me! I didn’t hear the siren before entering the intersection. It the driver did have the siren on and was approaching as fast as I thought they were it would have been impossible for me to slow down enough to avoid an accident.

    Thank you La Jicarita for bringing up this issue, I think how emergency drivers are taught to enter an intersection bears further investigation.

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