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.
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Second Judicial District Attorney Kari Brandenburg formally filed charges on an open count of murder against the two officers on Jan. 12, 2015. What followed was a very public struggle between APD and Brandenburg, when city officials denied the DA’s office access to another officer-involved shooting. Albuquerque Chief Administrative Officer called for a special prosecutor to take the place of Brandenburg for all subsequent police-involved shootings. The situation escalated when APD was investigated Brandenburg on suspicion of bribing witnesses involved in burglaries her son committed. KRQE reported that the APD investigation into Brandenburg was all but closed until Brandenburg moved forward with the case against Perez and Sandy.
By May, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas announce that he found no criminal wrongdoing on Brandenburg’s part, but did criticize both the DA and APD for mishandling the situation. When a District Court Judge ruled that there was a possible conflict of interest if Brandenburg prosecuted the case, the DA referred the case to special prosecutor Randi McGinn. By August a judge ruled that there was sufficient evidence to move forward with a trial. It is the first time in Albuquerque history that officers have been charged with murder for an on-duty shooting.
While a trial date is still not set, Boyd’s family won a settlement against the city for $5 million.
The case against the two officers garnered national attention as well. The Albuquerque shooting which happened months after a high profile police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, incited a number of protests including one that involved SWAT officers and riot gear. About a month after Perez and Sandy were charged, NM Political Report spoke with a reporter from Rolling Stone about a story that profiled APD’s history with officer involved shootings and specifically the death of James Boyd.