The Albuquerque Police Department is illegally denying an officer-involved shooting suspect’s family and lawyer access to public records related to the shooting, according to a lawsuit filed in District Court.
David Sherrill, father of Shaine Sherrill, who was shot Dec. 1 after police say he threatened them with a brake pad and/or knife, is suing the police department after it allegedly withheld reports, witness interviews, video, dash camera video, lapel camera video, and other reports and logs relating to the shooting.
“We have a duty to investigate the evidence in possession of the city, so that’s what we’re trying to do; we don’t know why the city is withholding evidence,” said Sherrill’s lawyer Shannon Kennedy. “It seems to be against the interest of the city.”
Assistant City Attorney Greg Wheeler said the City Attorney’s Office will launch an investigation into the allegations. He said it will first determine if the records request was denied, and if it was, the office will look at whether it was lawfully denied in accordance with the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act.
“There may be a valid reason why lapel tapes may not be released, so we will evaluate that and go forward,” Wheeler said.
The public records request was denied due to an “ongoing investigation” according to correspondence between the Kennedy Law Firm and the APD records department. The lawsuit, filed Friday, alleges that APD “made no attempt or effort to make non-exempt information, documents or material evidence available for Plaintiff’s review, nor indicate how the records requested fall within the cited exemption.”
Kennedy also said she believes the investigation is over – police have already indicated that they will charge Sherrill once he is released from the hospital, she said.
Kennedy said Shaine Sherrill denies that he was armed with anything, but she needs to inspect records relating to the shooting to pursue any further legal action.
Multiple Journal requests for documents relating to recent officer-involved shootings have also been denied due to an “ongoing investigation.”
But Wheeler said the law enforcement exception of the Inspection of Public Records Act can include material involved in an ongoing investigation.
“It goes way too far to say there’s no ongoing investigation exception,” Wheeler said. “It’s a case by case basis. The law enforcement defense is a valid defense.”