September 24, 2015

Family of slain teen puts city on notice for lawsuit

Photo Credit: Justice For Jaquise Lewis

The mother of a slain 17-year-old is putting the city of Albuquerque on notice for a potential lawsuit.

Photo Credit: Justice For Jaquise Lewis

Photo Credit: Justice For Jaquise Lewis

Last week, Munah Green filed a tort claims notice accusing the city and the Albuquerque Police Department of taking actions that led to the death of Jaquise Lewis, who was killed following a March 22 shooting at Los Altos Skate Park that left six others wounded.

Green’s notice alleges that the city is responsible for a number of wrongdoings, including wrongful death, civil rights violations and due process violations. The notice also compels both the city and the police department to preserve all evidence related to the shooting.

City spokeswoman Rhiannon Schroeder would not comment on the tort claims notice, stating that it’s pending litigation.

Although police have so far determined that Lewis was killed that night in self defense, at least five witnesses who were with Lewis that night have come forward publicly and disputed that narrative. To date, police haven’t arrested, pressed charges against or publicly named the man who killed Lewis.

Lewis’ autopsy report says he died from two gunshots—one in his back and one in the back of his left arm—that were fired from a distance.

Police still haven’t officially completed their investigation, though they did hold a press conference in May stating that Lewis had a gun and shot people at the skate park.

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

Albuquerque police say this photo shows Jaquise Lewis, in the yellow jersey, with a gun. His family says it’s a glove.

Green’s tort claim notice says that police “used highly selective screen shots” at that press conference from an obtained cell phone video of the incident “in a false and defamatory light, in order to convince members of the media and the public that Lewis had a gun.”

Green and others have demanded that police release the cell phone video to the public, though police say doing so would jeopardize their investigation. In the tort claims notice, Green’s attorney calls the police investigation “intentionally and deliberately incomplete, one-sided and biased.”

The tort claims notice also differs from the police account of what caused the shooting. In May, Albuquerque police spokesman Tanner Tixier told media outlets that the violence started after someone from Lewis’ group borrowed a skateboard from someone in another group at the skate park.

“A young man went up and asked, ‘Can I get my skateboard back?’” Tixier said at the press conference conference. “For whatever reason—we don’t know—a fight ensues.”

The tort claims notice says the commotion started with a racial slur.

“At some point after the arrival of the Lewis group, an Anglo male and female approached members of the Lewis group and accused them of stealing a skateboard,” the notice reads. “Members of the Lewis group denied any theft. The female then stated, ‘Fucking niggers. Always trying to steal shit.’”

Green’s tort notice is the latest in many developments since the shooting.

Just last week, Bernalillo District Attorney Kari Brandenburg told police that she wanted to review the Los Altos Skate Park shooting because “issues raised in the media mandate a formal review of the entire investigation and all reports.”

Police said they expect the full investigation to be handed over to Brandenburg’s office by the end of the month.