Newly released video showing Albuquerque police fatally shooting a homeless man has placed the city’s police department, already fraught with abuse allegations, under increased scrutiny.
Police shot James Boyd, 38, on March 16, after they tried to detain him for sleeping in an unauthorized area. Helmet camera footage shows Boyd finally cooperating after three hours of confrontation, picking up his belongings and approaching the officers, when one of the officers lobs a flashbang at his feet. Disoriented, Boyd appears to pull out two knives, makes a threatening gesture and then briefly turns his back to the officers. At that moment, two officers fire multiple live rounds at Boyd, hitting him at least once.
Boyd falls the ground. Blood can be seen on the rock above his head. He died at a hospital the next day.
Albuquerque Police Chief Gordon Eden maintains that the officers involved—Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy—were “justified” in shooting Boyd, claiming he posed a “direct threat.”
But civil rights advocates and some city officials say the video clearly shows that Boyd’s death could have been avoided. Demonstrators are scheduled to protest the shooting tomorrow, with plans to march to Albuquerque's police headquarters.
"I am disturbed and I am troubled by what I saw,” said Albuquerque City Council president Ken Sanchez, “What alarms me the most is that the chief would come out so quickly and make comments that justify this shooting,"
The advocacy group ProgressNow New Mexico notes that this month’s shooting is just the latest in a long string of questionable use-of-force incidents involving APD officers. Albuquerque police have shot thirty-six people, twenty-three fatally, since 2010. In that time, police misconduct lawsuits have cost APD more than $24 million.
An ongoing Department of Justice probe seeks to “determine whether APD engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force in violation of the Constitution and federal law.” Council president Sanchez said Boyd’s case should be added to the DOJ’s investigation.