A Second Judicial District Court judge this week issued a court order to reinstate Albuquerque Police Department officer Russell Perea, who was fired in 2011 after department officials said he was untruthful about his activity and conversations with former police officer Levi Chavez on the night of Chavez’s wife’s death.
Perea and Chavez had been partners for four days when Chavez’s wife, Tera, was found dead in the couple’s Los Lunas home in 2007. Perea was later questioned multiple times by Valencia County detectives, department brass and its Internal Affairs department.
Chavez was found not guilty of a first-degree murder charge this summer after a high-profile trial that lasted about six weeks. Perea has not been on the police force for two years, pending the outcome of the city’s appeal of the City Personnel Board’s reversal of his firing.
Perea was fired in 2011 after IA investigators claimed he was inconsistent in his memories of Chavez’s cellphone use and Chavez’s stolen truck, and that there was a discrepancy in the time logs associated with the partners’ activities the night Tera died.
On Tuesday, Judge Shannon Bacon ruled that Perea should be reinstated, upholding a Personnel Board hearing officer’s opinion that the inconsistencies in Perea’s account were due to faulty memory and that the time log evidence was inconclusive.
In a statement, City Attorney David Tourek said the city is reviewing its options to Bacon’s “problematic” ruling. Perea’s attorney, Sam Bregman, said he hopes the city complies with the court order as soon as possible. Perea will receive back pay, and retain his benefits and seniority when he returns to APD.