By DAVID CORREIA
Just days after the Department of Justice concluded a series of community meetings in Albuquerque on the problem of police violence, the Albuquerque Police Department killed its fourth victim in six weeks and 25th since 2010.
A more than six-hour standoff began when APD SWAT responded to a domestic disturbance call to the 10500 block of Coyote Canyon Place northwest just after noon. It ended just after 6 PM when SWAT fired flashbang grenades into a house. When the suspect emerged he was killed in a barrage of gunfire.
APD says Armand Martin threatened his wife with a gun early on Saturday morning. She fled the house with two children and called APD. Martin was identified as an African-American, Air Force veteran. He barricaded himself alone in his house.
APD SWAT units arrived at 1:30 PM. The recent DOJ report criticized APD’s SWAT unit, writing on page 35: “In our review of the Department’s SWAT, we found deficiencies in the leadership of this specialized unit…we found that SWAT members do not have sufficient understanding of incident deployment, scene control, or proper reporting protocols. We further noted a near absence of organizational accountability…SWAT’s deficient on-scene supervisory oversight contributes to the pattern of unreasonable use of force.”
KOB TV reported that Martin called the station from his barricaded home just after 4 PM saying that he had gotten into a fight with his wife. “He said he closed all of his curtains and had weapons. He also claimed that police were going to shoot him.”
APD ordered KOB to stop talking to Martin. A man identifying himself as Martin’s brother, Tommy, called KOB later saying, “My brother has told me too many bad things about police shooting people down there. I don’t know, right now I’m scared for my brother to go outside.” In addition he told KOB that his brother had guns but he didn’t think his brother knew where to find ammunition.
An APD spokesperson said APD used crisis intervention teams and negotiators, but according to neighbors and eyewitnesses, that negotiation included shouting over loudspeakers, firing flashbang grenades into windows, swarming armed military-equiped officers throughout the neighborhood for hours and placing a sniper on one neighbor’s roof. APD says the suspect exited the house at 6:16 PM and fired shots at APD from two handguns. APD SWAT officers returned fire, killing Martin. The DOJ reported (p. 36) that “In addition to [SWAT] lacking deployment oversight, we also identified a troubling trend where SWAT officers failed to document and videotape deployments.” There were no eyewitnesses to confirm that Martin fired at APD. One eyewitness told the press he thought Martin was pointing the gun at himself. Police initially lied to neighbors, telling them that SWAT didn’t shoot Martin but rather took him into custody.
In its press statement, APD did not report that Martin exited the house only after a SWAT grenade attack. Neighbors reported that APD fired three flashbang grenades into the house just prior to 6:16 PM. One neighbor told a La Jicarita reporter: “They were all camped out there. That’s what we saw for hours on end. It was military-style. Oh, and the flashbangs that were going off. It was scary. We went up into my neighbor’s house and we saw the flashbangs, they blew out all the windows.”
Less than a hour after Martin was killed, APD Chief Gorden Eden arrived to the scene. He refused to speak to the press.
At 10 PM an APD SWAT officer talked to a La Jicarita reporter saying that SWAT responded to a domestic dispute. With neighbors surrounding him he addressed the recent police shootings and DOJ investigation, disputing the notion that APD suffers from systemic problems. He claimed that only 1% of APD officers do anything wrong. A neighbor agreed saying that those cops were messing it up for the other 99%. The officer replied, “let’s be honest, 95%.” Everyone laughed and the SWAT officer walked off.
Armand Martin is the fourth person killed by APD since March 16 and the second since the Department of Justice released a report this month. That report concluded APD routinely uses unjustified lethal and non-lethal force and engages in unconstitutional policing. APD has increased the rate at which it kills people since the DOJ reported that it engages in too many police shootings, most of them unjustified.
DOJ investigators concluded community meetings Wednesday in Albuquerque on police violence and says it is now preparing a consent decree that it hopes will resolve APD’s “culture of aggression” (p. 36).
Earlier in the day, just before the shooting, protesters gathered at the downtown Albuquerque hotel where DOJ investigators are staying and passed a scales of justice from the hotel to City Hall.
The protest began in Civic Plaza where activists discussed strategies and tactics to interrupt the pattern of police violence in Albuquerque. While they talked a man lurked around the edges and surreptitiously filmed the group. Below he pretends to take a picture of a tree.
A coalition of groups called a vigil tonight, May 4, 2014 at Veterans Memorial Park and have called to pack this Monday’s City Council Meeting.