Mentally ill homeless man shot dead by Albuquerque police
from various sources – June 2016
submitted by – Kelly Averill
Updates on this case listed at the foot of this item
38-year-old mentally ill homeless man, James Boyd was shot, and subsequently died after a heated 4-hour standoff with Albuquerque police on 16 March 2014. Video footage shows officers Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy using flash bang grenades and a K9 dog team to aid them whilst talking to James.
James was killed in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains on the east side of Albuquerque. Whilst the video footage isn’t clear, there was a claim from Perez and Sandy that James was carrying knives and acting in a threatening manner towards them.
Police also claimed that James Boyd had frequent violent run-ins with law enforcement.
Special prosecutor Randi McGinn said during a trial hearing that James suffered from schizophrenia and argued that he was indeed following the officers’ orders. ‘Unlike Ferguson and unlike in New York City, we’re going to know. The public is going to have that information,’ District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said.
The Albuquerque Police were said to have been pursing James due to illegal camping violations. James had sought refuge in the mountain area. The police dash cam records the officers asking James to get down, whilst this is clearly for their safety, the only thing James initially did was to place his bag on the ground.
James would have already been in a heightened state of emotion due to his illness and the officers needed to treat him carefully under the circumstances. Although there were only a small number of officers present, this could have overwhelmed the vulnerable man.
The police were equipped with a variety of tools including dogs, firearms and tasers, whilst James was suspected of holding two small knives.
Following a standoff with James, the police deployed tasers, stun grenades and finally he was fatally shot. the video taken from an officer’s helmet camera showed Boyd appearing to surrender when officers opened fire, but a defence lawyer characterized him as an unstable suspect who was ‘unpredictably and dangerously close to a defenceless officer while he was wielding two knives.
Most police officers worldwide now carry body worn CCTV or have cameras in their patrol cars to record potential crimes committed or to gather other evidence of both police and public conduct.
On the day of James’ shooting the police dash cam recorded the attending officer’s conversation about James. Officer Keith Sandy was heard to saying; “For this f***ing lunatic? I’m going to shoot him in the penis with a shotgun here in a second.” Recorded two hours before the shooting of James, it would appear that officer Sandy made it very clear what his intentions were.
Officer Sandy was asked a month later what he meant by this threat. He described it as locker room banter.
When Officer Sandy shot at James he had turned around and was subsequently shot in the back. He was shot after a Taser failed to stop him continuing walking down towards the officers. The officers said that they did what their training had taught them to do.
Prosecutors had expected Albuquerque Police’s methods of training to come under scrutiny following the death. Following public protest, (in which Riot police launch tear gas toward activists in downtown Albuquerque following a 10-hour protest against the police shooting), and concerns raised, city officials signed an agreement with the justice department that required the police to provide better training for officers and dismantle troubled police units.
James’ family filed a wrongful death charge against Albuquerque Police.
Officer Dominique Perez and former Officer Keith Sandy faced second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and battery charges in the death of James. They would have to prove that there was probable cause in the shooting, and alternately the prosecution would have to prove that the officers acted with criminal intent.
When the Judge in the hearing determined the case did have probable caused, he was asked how he came to this decision by defence attorney Sam Bregman. To which the judge answered “The standard that you argued for, counsel, what would a reasonable police officer in that position have done?”
The lawyers for officers Sandy and Perez, were adamant no wrongdoing had been committed by their clients. The Albuquerque Police Department have said they strive to keep serving their community whilst the trial goes ahead.
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