ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A city security officer at the Downtown bus station could face discipline after he roughed up a man as he filmed the officer trying to make an arrest in August, according to a city spokeswoman.
The video, obtained and posted online by police accountability website PoliceComplaints.Info, shows security officer Andy Fitzgerald questioning a man at the Alvarado Transportation Center at First and Central. When the man who filmed the video pointed out that Fitzgerald as a security officer couldn’t arrest the man, Fitzgerald turned his attention to the man behind the smartphone.
“He’s not a police officer, though. He’s just a security guard,” said the man, who preferred to stay anonymous.
“I’m not a security guard, sir,” Fitzgerald tells the man. “… Why are you filming me? Who are you?”
Then Fitzgerald appears to push the man to the ground and choke him. Later, the footage becomes shaky, but the man’s voice becomes labored and high-pitched.
“Get your hands off my throat!” he shouted. “You’re breaking the law! You broke the law!”
When Albuquerque police arrived, officers questioned Fitzgerald, a nearby bus driver and a witness, according to lapel video also obtained by PoliceComplaints.Info.
Officers threatened to arrest the man who took the video, but later allowed him to leave the scene without interviewing him, according to the website.
The man who took the video will likely file a civil suit against the city, his attorney said.
A day after the altercation in late August, the city started an internal affairs investigation into Fitzgerald, said city spokeswoman Breanna Anderson.
Anderson didn’t say what came of that initial investigation, but the case was reopened in late November after a tort claims was filed and investigators learned about the video, she said.
Fitzgerald has been reassigned to a job where he doesn’t interact with the public until he goes before a pre-determination hearing, where he could be fired or face other discipline, Anderson said.
The security officer, employed with the city since June 2009, has been warned about excessive force at least twice before, according to city documents posted on the website.
In December 2010, Fitzgerald was reprimanded for handcuffing someone and failing to log or report the incident to a supervisor.
And on New Year’s Eve 2011, Fitzgerald detained someone for “an extended period of time” without reporting it to APD or noting the event in his daily activity log.
Fitzgerald’s supervisors have also criticized him for showing up to work late, leaving early and stealing snacks from a laundromat snack bar, according to the documents from the city and ABQ Ride.
Anna Martinez, attorney for the man who filmed the video, said the altercation was egregious and ignored.
“The actions that we see in the video are really shocking,” she said.