September 15, 2015

DA to review fatal Los Altos Skate Park shooting case

A sign at Los Altos Skate Park. Photo Credit: Justice for Jaquise Lewis Facebook page

A district attorney wants to review the police department’s investigation of the Los Altos Skate Park shooting in March that left 17-year-old Jaquise Lewis dead.

A sign at Los Altos Skate Park. Photo Credit: Justice for Jaquise Lewis Facebook page

A sign at Los Altos Skate Park. Photo Credit: Justice for Jaquise Lewis Facebook page

This is all according to recent email exchanges between DA Kari Brandenburg and Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden obtained by New Mexico Political Report.

In an email titled “Jaquise Lewis homicide” sent to Eden last week, Brandenburg wrote that she was “getting calls and inquiries regarding the above case.”

Police held a press conference more than a month after the shooting where they said Lewis was killed as a result of self defense.

Police have not arrested or named the man who killed Lewis.

“Our office is requesting all the reports, so we can evaluate it to determine if there should be a criminal prosecution,” Brandenburg wrote. “Though your detectives, at different times, have talked about it informally with several of our attorneys we have no information on which to base a decision.”

She concluded that “issues raised in the media mandate a formal review of the entire investigation and all reports.”

New Mexico Political Report and other media outlets in Albuquerque have been following the case in recent months.

Cellphone video remains secret

Throughout that time, the Albuquerque Police Department has refused to release an obtained cellphone video of the incident which shows Lewis being shot twice. Instead, they say it is evidence in an ongoing investigation of the Los Altos Skate Park shooting, which also left six others wounded.

Albuquerque police spokesman Tanner Tixier said the completed case would include the cellphone video. But he added that the police department is still working on the case and hopes to have it done by the end of the month.

Deputy District Attorney David Waymire is meeting with two officers to “review and discuss” the case on Wednesday, according to Tixier. An email to Brandenburg from Eden says the two officers will present “everything we have so far.”

“Keep in mind that this case is not just about Jaquise Lewis, but also the other victims who were shot that night, including one who was paralyzed,” Tixier said.

Six others were wounded in total.

Police did allow Lewis’ mother, Munah Green, his grandmother and a member of their legal representation to see the video. All three said the video shows Lewis did not have a gun and was shot as he ran away.

Green has since sued the department in an attempt to compel the department to release the video.

Aftermath of a shooting

Lewis’ autopsy concluded that he was shot from a distance twice—once in the back and once in the back of his left arm.

Lewis was the only person to die from the March shooting.

Green and others have said they believe police would have treated the situation differently if her son wasn’t black.

“If the shoe was on the other foot with a black kid shooting a white kid, he would have went to jail that night,” Green told New Mexico Political Report in July.

But police say Lewis fired a gun at other people that night. At that press conference, police released still photos from the cellphone video, including one that shows Lewis from a distance with his right hand raised.

Police say this photo of Lewis in the yellow jersey shows him with a gun. His family says it's a glove.

Police say this photo of Lewis in the yellow jersey shows him with a gun. His family says it’s a glove.

Although the photo is blurry, police say it shows Lewis holding a gun.

Multiple witnesses who were with Lewis that night have since come forward and denied that he ever had a gun or shot anyone. They say the photo shows him wearing a white glove, which was found on his body according to Lewis’ autopsy report. Lewis’ autopsy report doesn’t list a gun found on his body. Police didn’t recover any guns from the crime scene.

What happens after police complete the investigation into the shooting is in Brandenburg’s hands.

“Even if we recommend not to file charges, the DA’s office is the final authority on charging individuals and can always move forward with a criminal case if they deem it necessary,” Tixier said.

Tensions between DA, APD

Brandenburg has had tensions with APD, especially after her decision to charge two officers with murder after the killing of a homeless man who was illegally camping.

After this, APD investigated the district attorney for bribery and intimidation in relation to crimes committed by her son. The department referred the investigation to the Attorney General who said the evidence did not support the bribery and intimidation allegations.

Brandenburg later referred the case to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The City of Albuquerque has called for special prosecutors instead of district attorneys to be sent to scenes where police shoot suspects.

Matthew Reichbach contributed to this report.

Read the emails in full below:

Lewis Emails by New Mexico Political Report