Families of Victims of Albuquerque Police Violence Demand Indictments of Killer Cops

By DAVID CORREIA

Since 2010, the Albuquerque police department has shot 41 people and killed 27. The Department of Justice called many of those shootings unjustified in an April 2014 report. The Office of the District Attorney and the New Mexico Attorney General have never indicted an APD officer involved in a fatal shooting. Yesterday family members of some of those people shot and killed by the APD held a press conference at Civic Plaza in downtown Albuquerque to demand that the Department of Justice and New Mexico US Attorney Damon Martinez do what local legal authorities in New Mexico have long refused to do: indict killer cops.

Activists and supporters wait for the families to emerge from the meeting with US Attorney Damon Martinez
Activists and supporters watch as the delegation arrives at Civic Plaza from the meeting with US Attorney Damon Martinez

The DOJ investigation of APD included an examination of the circumstances surrounding the shooting death of a number of victims, including Iraq War veteran Ken Ellis III. They concluded that “while it is true that Ellis was holding a gun and thus presented a clear threat of harm, there was never any indication from Ellis’ words or actions that he intended to use the gun on anyone but himself. During his encounter with police, he held the gun to his own head and did not point at police or threaten them with harm. It was thus unreasonable for the officer to have used deadly force on Ellis.”

The father of Ken Ellis III, Ken Ellis, Jr., has been an outspoken critic of APD for years. He, along with other family members, demanded a federal investigation of APD, an investigation that culminated in the damning April DOJ Findings Letter. Despite the conclusions in that letter–that APD engages in unconstitutional policing and routinely uses unjustified lethal and non-lethal force– no officers have been indicted for their crimes.

Ellis, joined by Strong Families New Mexico and the family members of other victims of APD, circulated a petition this month to demand the DOJ indict officers. Yesterday they delivered that petition, signed by more than 45,000 people, to the offices of New Mexico’s United States Attorney, Damon Martinez. After the one-hour meeting with Martinez, the delegation of family members and their lawyers held a 15-minute press conference at Civic Plaza.

Ellis was joined by Mike Gomez, the father of Alan Gomez. The DOJ examined APD’s killing of Gomez in its investigation. They concluded that “the recklessness of [APD officer Sean Wallace’s behavior] at the scene supports our finding that his use of deadly force was unreasonable.”

Mary Jobe, whose husband Daniel Tillison was killed by APD, also joined the delegation. The DOJ examined the Tillison killing and concluded that “based on our review of the facts, Tillison did not pose an immediate threat of death or serous bodily harm and the shooting could have been avoided if the officer had waited for other officers to assist him. The officer was not in control of the situation because he approached Tillison alone and resorted to deadly force.”

Earl Mitschelen also attended the meeting with the US Attorney. APD officer Trey Economidy shot his son Jacob Mitschelen in the back in 2011, killing him. In the days after Economidy killed Mitschelen, a local reporter, scoured social networking sites and found that Economidy had listed his occupation on Facebook as “human waste disposal.”

Steve Torres’s son Christopher Torres was killed by two APD officers in 2011. District Attorney Kari Brandenburg called the shooting death justified. A civil court judge, however, concluded that APD officers Hilger and Brown tackled the unarmed Torres to the ground and began beating him before shooting him three times at point-blank range in the back.

Torres family attorney Randi McGinn complained after the verdict, “I don’t know anybody who could shoot someone three times in the back and not be taken before a grand jury for that.”

Family members as they walk from the US Attorney's office to Civic Plaza to hold the press conference. Mike Gomez holds the box of 45,000 signatures on a petition demanding indictments of killer cops.
Family members as they walk from the US Attorney’s office to Civic Plaza to hold the press conference. Mike Gomez holds the box of 45,000 signatures on a petition demanding indictments of killer cops. Gomez was joined by other family members of APD victims, including Steve Torres (left, tan coat), Ken Ellis (Black cowboy hat) and Theresa James (holding pink sweater). Mary Jobe (not pictured) also attended the meeting and press conference.
Adriann Barboa, Field Director for Strong Families New Mexico, began the press conference just after 2:30PM. She started by saying they'd just met with US Attorney Damon Martinez. "I can say that it was a disheartening experience to hear that our families cannot be given any information or hope that they will see justice soon."
Adriann Barboa, Field Director for Strong Families New Mexico, began the press conference just after 2:30PM. She started by saying they’d just met with US Attorney Damon Martinez. “I can say that it was a disheartening experience to hear that our families cannot be given any information or hope that they will see justice soon.” To Barboa’s right stand Mike Gomez and Ken Ellis. To her left stand Mary Jobe and Steve Torres.
The press conference was punctuated by chants of "No Justice, No Peace," and "Indict Killer Cops."
The press conference was punctuated by chants of “No Justice, No Peace,” and “Indict Killer Cops.”
Ken Ellis said "I've managed to keep my composure over this for four years but I'm starting to lose it... It's obvious they're not going to indict an officer... As a minimum I'd like to at least have a preliminary hearing. For God's sake these men are getting away with murder."
Ken Ellis said, “I’ve managed to keep my composure over this for four years but I’m starting to lose it… It’s obvious they’re not going to indict an officer… As a minimum I’d like to at least have a preliminary hearing. For God’s sake these men are getting away with murder.”
Attorney Shannon Kennedy spoke next. "I've had the honor of representing families who've lost their loved ones... We are so lucky in the City of Albuquerque to have a consent decree that if upheld could help take this police department from a national embarrassment to a national model."
Attorney Shannon Kennedy spoke next. “I’ve had the honor of representing families who’ve lost their loved ones… We are so lucky in the City of Albuquerque to have a consent decree that if upheld could help take this police department from a national embarrassment to a national model.”
Steve Torres: "My son was shot and killed three and a half years ago... We proved our case in the civil court before judge Bacon. We proved the officers who shot my son did so illegally. That by itself should be sufficient for someone on the criminal side to get indictments. We went to Mr. Martinez's office and we implored him because quite frankly he's our last hope. The District Attorney's office has failed us. The Attorney General's office has failed us."
Steve Torres: “My son was shot and killed three and a half years ago… We proved our case in the civil court before judge Bacon. We proved the officers who shot my son did so illegally. That by itself should be sufficient for someone on the criminal side to get indictments. We went to Mr. Martinez’s office and we implored him because quite frankly he’s our last hope. The District Attorney’s office has failed us. The Attorney General’s office has failed us.”
When family members delivered the 45,000 signatures to Damon Martinez, they demanded to know why the US Attorney was not prosecuting officers. Martinez refused to provide them with any information whatsoever about any of the cases, telling them that it was the policy of the US Attorney's office to offer no comment on ongoing or potential investigations. Ken Ellis walked out of the meeting in frustration. I asked him about the meeting. He told me, "It's all lip service. They say they're investigating but it's just lip service. This is how they've learned to pacify us."
When family members delivered the 45,000 signatures to Damon Martinez, they demanded to know why the US Attorney was not prosecuting officers. Martinez refused to provide them with any information whatsoever about any of the cases, telling them that it was the policy of the US Attorney’s office to offer no comment on ongoing or potential investigations. Ken Ellis walked out of the meeting in frustration. I asked him about the meeting. He told me, “It’s all lip service. They say they’re investigating but it’s just lip service. This is how they’ve learned to pacify us.”
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