Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story contained misleading information about an earlier case of alleged excessive force by APD. That material has been deleted.
New developments surfaced Thursday in both of the Albuquerque Police Department’s recent fatal shootings, including the name of the officer who fired in Tuesday’s confrontation as well as the recording of the emotional 911 call that brought officers to the scene.
Regarding the March 16 officer-involved shooting in the Sandia foothills, Albuquerque’s Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry said he was not surprised to hear that the Department of Justice had referred the case to the federal agency’s criminal division.
Perry said during an interview with the Journal on Thursday that officials “wholeheartedly” expected the DOJ to review the March 16 shooting death of James M. Boyd, 38, because he – per directions from Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry – called the department and referred the case to DOJ specifically for its consideration.
At a closed-door meeting Wednesday between DOJ officials and community stakeholders, federal officials said they had referred the Boyd shooting to the department’s criminal division, according to some members who attended. There was some confusion among the attendees, however, about whether the DOJ was looking into the Boyd shooting or other incidents involving APD.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is conducting a separate massive civil investigation into whether Albuquerque police have a “pattern or practice” of violating Albuquerque residents’ constitutional rights, specifically through the use of deadly force.
Albuquerque police have shot and killed 23 men since 2010.
Berry on Thursday described the city’s relationship with the Justice Department as a partnership. “This is us working in collaboration with DOJ. This isn’t us against DOJ,” he said during a brief interview with reporters.
He also said that he stands behind the police department and Chief Gorden Eden.
Perry said the city wanted to refer the Boyd shooting, in particular, to the DOJ because it generated a lot of “public and public official” concern. He said it’s his understanding that it is standard protocol for individual cases to be sent first to the DOJ’s criminal division for review.
Helmet-camera video of the shooting shows Boyd, a homeless man who was camping illegally in the foothills, beginning to walk down a hill when officers throw a flash bang and then fire at him as he turns away. Boyd can then be heard saying, “Please don’t hurt me” as he lies on the ground, and officers then shoot him with a beanbag shotgun and let loose a police dog on him. Boyd died the following day in the hospital.
Perry, however, said it was “premature” to discuss the possibility of Albuquerque police officers facing criminal prosecution for any officer-involved shootings.
Many questions have not yet been answered about the March 16 shooting, including exactly what types of lethal and non-lethal force were used in trying to resolve the situation with Boyd.
Eleven days after the shooting, just four items have been tagged as evidence for the shooting, including two items described as “ammunition” and two described as “test fires,” which are used to determine which weapon fired each bullet, according to KOAT-TV on Thursday.
911 call, officer’s name released
Also on Thursday police released the recording of the Tuesday night 911 emergency call that prompted police response to the scene of what would become the department’s second officer-involved fatal shooting in as many weeks.
The department also released the name of the officer involved as James Eichel, who started with APD as a public service aide in 2009 and has been an officer since 2010.
Police said Eichel has not been in any previous officer-involved shootings.
The shooting happened just hours after protesters descended upon police headquarters to denounce the department and the Boyd shooting.
The 11-minute and 7-second 911 call starts with the dispatcher responding and a girl’s voice, sobbing as she says, “There’s a guy and he’s drunk and he has a gun. He pointed the gun at me.”
The man, later identified as Alfred Redwine, 30, was later shot by police outside an apartment building on 60th Street after responding to the call. Redwine died later.
Police say Redwine fired at least one round when he came out of his apartment and an officer returned fire.
Neighbors who saw the shooting say they saw Redwine holding a gun to his head, but never pointing it or shooting at officers. They said officers shot him without giving him a chance to surrender.
According to KKOB, one witness said after Redwine held the gun to his head, he then pointed it at the ground and fired, and that’s when he was shot.
In the 911 call, the girl appears confused as the dispatcher asks her for her location. She continues to cry hysterically, calling out, “Mom” and repeating that the man pointed a gun.
She tells the dispatcher that the man is a neighbor who knew her and says he confronted her outside the house.
Eventually, the girl’s mother comes on the phone and gives a description of the man, saying he ran off after they “started raising hell with him.”
The dispatcher tells the woman, whose name is redacted from the tape, that police are on their way and asks her to stay on the phone until they arrive.
The woman tells the dispatcher her daughter is 14, they are from Farmington and were just visiting friends in the neighborhood.
She indicates her daughter, their friend’s daughter and son went outside to retrieve something from a van when Redwine confronted her daughter.
“I didn’t think anything like that was going to happen,” she says.