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APD officer fired eight shots at fleeing suspect


Albuquerque Police Department officer Brian Pitzer fired eight shots at an armed carjacking suspect as he was running away on Oct. 28, according to lapel video released by the department Monday.

Four of those shots came after Joaquin Ortega, 34, had thrown away his gun, the video shows.

It was Pitzer’s third officer-involved shooting in four years.

A low-quality frame grab from a lapel video shows officer Brian Pitzer shooting at a suspect, center, near Washington and Central in October 2013. (Source: Albuquerque Police Department)

A low-quality frame grab from a lapel video shows officer Brian Pitzer shooting at a suspect, center, near Washington and Central in October 2013. (Source: Albuquerque Police Department)

This incident occurred after Ortega was reportedly driving people off the road near Girard and Lead SE before he crashed his car near Central and Washington, robbed a woman with her grandchild and attempted a carjacking, according to police.

Ortega survived the shooting, and was booked into jail on charges of aggravated assault on a police officer and armed robbery, among other charges. Ortega pleaded not guilty in that case, which is pending in District Court, and is being represented by attorney Kari Morrisey. Police said he was drunk and possibly on prescription pills during the incident.

In the wake of the shooting, former APD chief Allen Banks said Ortega had turned toward the officer with a gun in his hand between two parked cars before he was shot at least three times. Banks showed a still from the lapel video that he said shows Ortega turned toward the officer with a gun in his hand. But in the video, Ortega appears to be running away from Pitzer between those cars and it is not clear if he turns around as he’s running.

Pitzer’s lapel video is significantly more grainy than the video from another responding officer – which does not show the shooting – and is missing a time stamp.

APD did not respond to a request for comment late Monday night.

The department is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice, in part for alleged misuse of force; the investigation was launched more than a year ago.

Banks had refused to release the video after the shooting, saying he didn’t want to “try this case in the media.”

APD had responded to a four-month-old Journal records request by saying that it hadn’t confirmed that the video existed, even though Banks had shown a still from it at the news conference. However, APD on Monday sent emails to local news media saying the videos were available. The 911 calls from that incident were included, but were mostly reports of erratic driving and the crash into the light pole.

The shooting occurs within minutes of Pitzer jumping out of his squad car and confronting Ortega, saying “show me your hands now.” Pitzer repeats the order another five times and Ortega doesn’t put his hands up but runs away, which is when Pitzer starts shooting. Halfway through the shots, Ortega throws the gun in the air when he is about one and a half car lengths away, but Pitzer continues with four more shots.

As more officers arrive on scene, Pitzer says, “He threw a gun on me right there. I shot him.” Banks said in the news conference that Ortega never pointed a gun at the officer and he never points it at the officer in the video.

Ortega moans and cries as police handcuff him and check his wounds, according to the video.

“Take me home, please, please, please, please, I want to lay down,” Ortega says.

After showing other officers where the gun flew, Pitzer can be heard saying “We’ve got a (officer)-involved shooting,” and gives a thumbs up.


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