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BernCo DA clears another APD officer in shooting

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Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg’s office has determined that no charges will be filed in one of the highest-profile in a recent string of shootings by Albuquerque police officers.

Documents posted to the DA’s website today say that prosecutors found no probable cause to believe APD officer Byron “Trey” Economidy committed a crime when he shot Jacob Mitschelen three times in the back during a foot chase in Southeast Albuquerque on Feb. 9, 2011.

Mitschelen was armed with an unloaded handgun at the time he was shot. Economidy told investigators that the 29-year-old picked up the weapon after it fell out of his pants and was turning toward him with the gun raised.

Here is the “shooting review” document posted to Brandenburg’s website.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Economidy made headlines when reporters discovered a Facebook post in which the officer listed his occupation as “human waste disposal.” Police Chief Ray Schultz suspended Economidy for four days and reassigned him from the Street Gangs Unit — the team he was working on at the time he shot Mitschelen — to a patrol position.

Brandenburg’s determination, which dealt with potential criminal actions, marks the second time this year that Economidy has been cleared in the shooting.

In January, the city’s Independent Review Officer and the Police Oversight Commission ruled that Economidy hadn’t violated any APD policies by shooting Mitschelen. However, the commission determined that he had violated APD policies by using his personally owned handgun — which he hadn’t passed department-mandated qualifications with — in the shooting. (Read Journal coverage of that ruling here.)

No final determination has been made on whether Economidy will be disciplined for the violation.

Economidy and the city are facing a lawsuit in the shooting. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in December 2011, alleges wrongful death and civil rights violations.

Also, a Bernalillo County jury last month ruled that Economidy used excessive force when he pinned a vehicle being driven by Iraq war veteran Kenneth Ellis III into a parking space outside a Northeast Heights convenience store as part of an auto theft investigation. After a nine-minute encounter with officers, Ellis was fatally shot in the neck by APD Detective Brett Lampiris-Tremba.

The jury awarded $10.3 million to Ellis’ family in that case.

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