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ABQ police watchdog: Feds investigating more than just video tampering claims

The scope of an ongoing federal criminal investigation into events surrounding the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old woman by an Albuquerque police officer in 2014 stretches beyond what has been previously reported. That’s according to the lead investigator for the city’s independent police watchdog group. Department of Justice officials took the rare step last month of confirming an investigation into allegations made by a whistleblower that APD employees tampered with video from officers’ body cameras and other sources, including video from the early morning hours of April 21, 2014, when then-APD officer Jeremy Dear shot Mary Hawkes. But Ed Harness, executive director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency (CPOA), said in an interview that federal authorities are “looking into the entire case,” including whether the shooting itself was unlawful. In a series of presentations to Justice Department officials in early November, Harness and one of his investigators turned over information they had gathered during an administrative review of the shooting.

Raul Torrez

Incoming DA announces panel to look at retrying case in James Boyd shooting

Two weeks before he takes office, incoming District Attorney Raul Torrez announced he had formed a team of prosecutors that will review a high-profile officer shooting case in Albuquerque. The goal is to determine whether to prosecute the case again. Torrez will officially take office as the 2nd Judicial District attorney next month, but on Tuesday said he already convened a group of seven district attorneys from around the state to review the controversial case involving Keith Sandy and Dominque Perez. Sandy and Perez were Albuquerque police officers who were charged with the death of homeless camper James Boyd. The first trial ended in a hung jury.

Screenshot of Albuquerque Police Department video of the shooting of James Boyd.

Law enforcement board to review how shootings by police officers are investigated

Attorney General Hector Balderas, who also chairs the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board, appointed a group to look into the policies and procedures behind investigations into shootings by police officers and use of force incidents in the state. The announcement of the review by a new subcommittee of the board came hours before a mistrial in South Carolina, where police officer shot Michael Slager shot Walter Scott, a black man, in the back as Scott ran away. Scott died. The April 4, 2015 incident was caught on video and quickly made news around the country after it happened. “Officer-involved shootings can have devastating consequences for both the civilian and law enforcement communities,” Balderas said in a statement.

Screenshot of Albuquerque Police Department video of the shooting of James Boyd.

Murder charge against one ex-APD officer dropped

Special Prosecutor Randi McGinn on Monday dismissed the second-degree murder charge against former Albuquerque police officer Dominique Perez, who was accused of fatally shooting homeless camper James Boyd in March 2014. McGinn filed a one-page motion in state District Court in Albuquerque to dismiss the case “without prejudice,” which means that incoming District Attorney Raul Torrez could refile the charge if he chooses to after he takes office on Jan. 1. McGinn said she couldn’t comment on why she dismissed the charge against Perez, but she did add that the second-degree murder charge against former officer Keith Sandy remained in place and that Torrez will have to decide on whether to retry Sandy. McGinn said she spoke last week with Perez’s attorney, Luis Robles, about her intent to dismiss the charge against his client.

Police Car Lights

Affidavit: ABQ police have illegally deleted, altered videos of shootings

Albuquerque Police Department officials have altered and, in some cases, deleted videos that showed several controversial incidents, including at least two police shootings, the department’s former records supervisor has alleged in a sworn affidavit. Three officers’ body camera videos that captured events surrounding the fatal shooting of 19-year-old suspected car thief Mary Hawkes in April 2014 were either altered or partially deleted, according to former APD employee Reynaldo Chavez’s nine-page affidavit. Also alleged is that surveillance camera video from a salon showing APD officers shooting Jeremy Robertson, a law enforcement informant and suspected probation violator, in June 2014 bore “the tell-tale signs that it has been altered and images that had been captured are now deleted. One of the deleted images captured the officers shooting Jeremy Robertson.”

This piece originally appeared at NM In Depth and is reprinted at NM Political Report with permission. Chavez also said that ‘SD cards’ from cameras were easy to make disappear, and that he witnessed Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman say ‘we can make this disappear’ when discussing a particular police camera with an SD card in it, according the affidavit.

Protester hitting a truck with his sign.

APD arrests protester over property damage

Albuquerque police announced Monday the arrest of a man allegedly involved in property damage last week during the protest of a hung jury in the trial of two APD officers charged with murder. Police say Benjamin Thomas Imbus faces a felony charge of criminal damage to private property. When a truck tried to drive through protesters who were blocking traffic on Lomas Boulevard near to state courthouse, one protester slammed his sign against the truck. The protester, police say, is Imbus. The damage to the truck was under $1,800, according to police.

Protesters confronting police in downtown Albuquerque a day after a deadlocked jury in the case against two former Albuquerque Police Department officers.

Protesters block traffic after hung jury in ex-APD officers’ trial

Protesters, disappointed with a mistrial in the case of two Albuquerque police officers, blocked traffic, chanted and had a few tense moments with police Wednesday night in downtown Albuquerque. The protesters, under 100 at the peak and almost a quarter that by the end of the protest hours later, began at the 2nd Judicial District courthouse, before marching to the police station. After returning to the courthouse, protesters briefly clashed with police wearing tactical gear. Reporters saw pushing and shoving between the two groups. Police eventually got protesters to retreat to the sidewalk next to the courthouse without any arrests.

District Attorney Kari Brandenburg

DA calls ABQ mayor a ‘psychopath’ in national profile

An in-depth profile from a national news publication of outgoing Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg detailed her time in office, while showing the animosity she holds against the current Albuquerque mayor and his administration. While most of the feature from Buzzfeed focuses on Brandenburg’s career, especially the recent portion dominated by by her feud with Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and Albuquerque Police Department Chief Gorden Eden. She spoke candidly about her dim view of the two to Buzzfeed. Brandenburg was quick to note that she has no beef with rank-and-file officers. She was just as quick to note how little respect she has for Police Chief Gordon [sic] Eden and other high-level police officials, who she said “allowed themselves to be used,” and just as quick to note what she thinks of Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, of whom she said: “I think he’s a psychopath.”
Wednesday, Brandenburg denied saying this about Berry.

Ex-APD cop takes the fifth 130+ times in shooting deposition

“I’m going to invoke my Fifth Amendment right.”
Former Albuquerque police officer Jeremy Dear uttered that phrase — and others very much like it — more than 130 times on Tuesday as he was being deposed by an attorney for the family of a 19-year-old young woman Dear fatally shot in April 2014. Shannon Kennedy, whose law firm represents the family of shooting victim Mary Hawkes in a federal civil rights lawsuit, asked Dear a wide range of questions about his history at APD, the shooting, his behavior in its aftermath and other matters. This piece originally appeared at NM In Depth and is reprinted at NM Political Report with permission. He didn’t answer any of them. Kennedy’s firm has litigated dozens of police shooting cases over the course of decades.

Screenshot of Albuquerque Police Department video of the shooting of James Boyd.

Top stories of 2015: Number 5; APD officers charged with murder

In March of 2014, Albuquerque Police were dispatched to the foothills area of Albuquerque in response to a homeless man who was camping illegally. What transpired in a matter of hours would leave the camper dead and the prompt still-ongoing issues on a local level with national attention. Almost a year after the shooting, then-Officer Dominique Perez and retired Detective Keith Sandy were charged with the murder of camper James Boyd. We are counting down the top ten stories through the end of the year with expanded recaps or personal recollections from the three members of the team. Tune in each morning to see what the next story is.