By DAVID CORREIA
On Monday, January 12, 2015, Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg charged former APD detective Keith Sandy and officer Dominique Perez with the March 16, 2014 murder of James Boyd. Since Brandenburg came into office in 2001, APD has killed 46 people. Sandy and Perez are the first officers she has ever charged in an officer-involved fatal shooting.
Yesterday, the day following the murder charges, was just as exceptional. It was the fifth anniversary of the APD shooting death of Ken Ellis, III. Ellis’s death was the first APD shooting death of 2010, a date generally understood as marking the beginning of the most bloody period in APD history: 27 killed in five years.
But yesterday turned out to be more than a day of remembrance. While activists and family members of APD violence marked the day by remembering the life and death of Iraq War veteran Ken Ellis, III, APD marked the occasion by killing its 28th person since 2010. After going more than six months without killing anyone–the longest stretch between fatal shootings since Ellis was killed–APD officers shot and killed a man, yet to be identified, in an alley near the intersection of San Mateo and Constitution in northeast Albuquerque.
APD says its officers returned fire during a foot pursuit in an alley. According to APD the man, who police say was wearing a bullet-proof vest, fired first and died at the scene. Another suspect was apprehended and is currently under arrest. APD has yet to release lapel camera video of the encounter. Eyewitness accounts at the scene contradict many of these claims. This first video was taken moments after the shooting by a neighbor who heard gunshots. He raced out of his home and filmed the aftermath.
The neighbor, Patrick Dowless, provided two additional videos of the immediate aftermath of the shooting. This second video below shows officers arguing with an eyewitness at the scene who claimed to have heard 12-14 shots fired. Dowless told La Jicarita that the man was his uncle and APD was arguing with him about how many shots were fired. The argument begins 57 seconds into the video.
This last video provided by Dowless to La Jicarita shows another argument between APD officers and an eyewitness ten seconds into the video. In addition, the video includes statements from neighbors who confirm that many more than four shots were fired.
The Albuquerque Journal in Wednesday’s paper reported the following:
“Journal staff captured footage of a man’s body lying in the alley between San Mateo Park, which runs on the east side of San Mateo Boulevard, and Madeira Drive NE. The body appeared to be uncovered. A handgun was near the man’s left foot, and he appeared to have a wound in his side. His chest was bare and he was wearing pants that appeared to be cut at the knee and tennis shoes. What looked like a bullet-proof vest was on the ground near him. His hands were behind his back. Yellow crime scene tape stretched across the alley”
This account is consistent with the story APD told reporters at the scene but inconsistent with eyewitness accounts collected by La Jicarita. I contacted the Albuquerque Journal on Twitter last night, and again today, and asked if they actually have the video or photo evidence they claim in the story, and if so when they will release it. The Journal did not respond. As of now they have not released any video that confirms their claim of a gun or body armor. In addition, I followed up and asked an Albuquerque Journal reporter today if the paper had any video. He said he had not seen any video and could not confirm that the paper has the video described in today’s paper.
We asked a witness to the shooting, Patrick Dowless, about these claims. In his answer, shown below, he said he began filming immediately following the shooting and saw neither a gun nor body armor on or near the victim:
Off camera Dowless told La Jicarita that he spoke with neighbors who witnessed the shooting and described to him a scene that contradicted APD’s story that the shooting occurred during a foot-pursuit. One neighbor told Dowless that APD fired over traffic and from a patrol car, not on foot. That claim could not be confirmed.
District Attorney Brandenburg, who found probable cause for a murder charge against two APD officers on Monday, was refused access to the crime scene last night by APD and Assistant City Attorney Kathy Levy. Levy told a representative of the DA that Brandenburg and her representatives were not welcome at the scene and would not be briefed by APD. This violates at 2006 agreement between APD and the DA’s office that gives representatives of the DA access to officers on the scene of officer-involved shootings.
Last month, APD revealed that it had been investigating Brandenburg for intimidating witnesses in a case involving her son. That “investigation” came after Brandenburg informed the police union lawyer that she planned to charge Sandy and Perez with the murder of James Boyd, leading some to speculate that APD was retaliating against the DA.
While Brandenburg was not on the scene Robin Hammer was. Hammer served as the Independent Review Officer for the Police Oversight Commission. The Commission was recently abolished by the City Council and replaced by a Civilian Police Oversight Agency. It’s not clear what Hammer was doing at the scene or who gave her access to the scene. As IRO her job was not to work alongside APD in its investigations of crimes or officer-involved shootings, but rather to serve as an independent investigator of complaints against Albuquerque police officers. In the video below she can be seen conferring with an APD Detective named Juarez and helping her coordinate an eyewitness interview.