Mayor Richard Berry said today that it was premature for his police chief to describe APD’s shooting of a mentally ill homeless man as “justified.”
Berry, who met with local reporters for one-on-one interviews this afternoon, said his office also has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to examine the shooting.
In addition, the city administration asked the Las Cruces Police Department to join the inter-agency investigation of the shooting — a move intended to provide another independent set of eyes, Berry said.
Police have come under fire for their latest shooting that left a homeless camper dead after he was shot in the foothills as he was turning away last Sunday.
“I’ve seen the portion of video that the public has seen,” the mayor said. “It’s horrific. It’s unsettling.”
But Berry said it would be a mistake to condemn the officers at this point, just as it was a mistake for Chief Gorden Eden to say last week the shooting was justified.
“I think it’d be a mistake for me or anyone in elected office to judge the situation before we have the full investigation done,” Berry said. But “I have the same emotional reaction as a lot of people when they see the video.”
The mayor said his administration has offered to send all of its information on the shooting to the Department of Justice, which is already investigating APD’s use of force.
“I think this is a circumstance they need to take a look at and make a determination on their side,” Berry said.
Community leaders will ask the Department of Justice to consider the Albuquerque Police Department’s most recent shooting in its investigation, among other things, in a meeting with the Justice Department Wednesday afternoon.
Chief Gorden Eden said “less-than-lethal” force was deployed before six shots were fired at the man, who was brandishing two knives at the officers during the hours-long confrontation.
Officers Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy fired at the suspect. Sandy was hired by APD soon after he was fired from State Police for allegedly double-dipping with pay.
The Department of Justice launched an investigation into whether the department as a “pattern or practice” of using deadly force, among other things, in November 2012.
The Justice Department met with community leaders in January. That meeting was closed to the media, as is Wednesday’s.
– We’ll have more on the mayor’s reaction and what city councilors and others are saying in tomorrow’s paper.