Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Gov. Susana Martinez directed State Police to turn over recordings made at a deadly Albuquerque Police Department shooting directly to the FBI rather than APD, the Journal has confirmed through law enforcement officials.
State Police were called to the scene of the March 16 shooting of James Boyd in the Albuquerque foothills where Boyd, who had a history of mental illness and assaulting police officers, was illegally camping.
He was shot by Albuquerque Police officers after a standoff that lasted several hours. He died the following day at a local hospital.
Prior to the shooting, Albuquerque police called State Police to the scene at Boyd’s request in hopes a State Police officer would be able talk Boyd into surrendering.
Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell said in a statement in response to a Journal question that “Governor Martinez has directed the state police to provide federal law enforcement with any and all information they believe to be relevant to the investigation.”
It is unusual for State Police, which participates in a multi-agency review team for APD shootings, to bypass APD’s investigation and turn over evidence to the FBI.
APD Chief Gorden Eden, who spoke to reporters Friday evening, said he “became aware” that State Police had been asked to turn over recordings, but didn’t say how he became aware, except that neither State Police nor the governor notified him.
He said he didn’t know what the protocol was for agencies in the multi-jurisdictional team giving potential evidence to other agencies. “I don’t know if there is protocol, quite frankly, I don’t know the circumstances directly behind that occurring,” Eden said.
Eden also said he didn’t know how State Police’s actions might affect the multi-agency teams’ investigation. “That’s one of the things I’ll have to find out on Monday,” he said.
Eden said he had not seen the State Police recordings and didn’t know what they showed. He also said he had not reviewed any of APD’s video from the Boyd shooting, except for what was released to the media a week ago.
Boyd had two knives and made threats to officers throughout the standoff but appeared to be surrendering when an APD recording shows Boyd being shot as he appears to turn away from a flash-bang hand grenade, a police dog and what appears to be a Taser fired at him. APD officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez fired three rounds each at Boyd. Eden described Boyd as moving to assault the K-9 officer.
Martinez’s directive to turn over the tapes to the FBI was made on Thursday.
Officials cautioned against speculating on the contents of the tapes.
The Journal has filed an Inspection of Public Records Act request for the tapes or transcripts with the Department of Public Safety.
Knell said, “Governor Martinez saw the video and understands why so many are troubled and concerned.”
Mayor Richard Berry said he did not know about the State Police action and he did not receive a call from Gov. Martinez about her directive.
FBI spokesman Frank Fisher said he was not aware of the State Police tapes being turned over.
The Department of Justice and the FBI announced they are investigating the Boyd shooting on Friday.
The case was referred to the DOJ’s criminal division, according to the city’s chief administrative officer Rob Perry, who said that is standard practice when the federal agency is asked to look at specific events. That means officers could face criminal charges for the shooting if the agencies determine they are appropriate.
Eden said that investigation is welcome, and said he had decided with Perry to ask them to investigate on Monday.
“I think it’s going to give us that extra set of eyes that we were looking for,” Eden said.
The DOJ is also at the tail end of an investigation into whether APD has a “pattern or practice” of violating civil rights through the use of deadly force.
The city had asked the Justice Department to look into the shooting, which has sparked both local and national outcry, last week. The FBI was asked to participate by the DOJ, according to Fisher, who said the agency will evaluate if criminal charges are filed against officers.
“We want the public to know that we’re looking at it very closely and we’re going to make sure a proper investigation is done,” Fisher said. “We’re looking at whether any civil rights were violated.”
Berry said he wasn’t aware that State Police had turned their recordings directly over to the FBI. But he said he’s not familiar with what the standard protocol is for how evidence is shared among law-enforcement agencies.
The mayor said he hadn’t talked to the governor about it.
As for the FBI’s announcement of an investigation, Berry said a thorough, independent look at what happened in the Boyd shooting will be good for both the police department itself and the community in general.
“I think it’s the right thing,” he told reporters at City Hall. “We need answers as a community. I want answers as a mayor.”
He said the results of the investigation will be used to help improve APD.
“We will never stop moving forward, working on better solutions,” Berry said.
The mayor said the Boyd case is the only FBI investigation the city has been notified of.
Local activist Joel Gallegos, who helped organize Tuesday’s massive protest against the department, said he was glad officials were acting on the issue.
“I think if it wasn’t for the public getting upset about it, probably nothing would have happened,” Gallegos said. “I completely welcome an investigation, we hope that the people responsible are held accountable and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
But Gallegos – a member of the city’s chapter of the ANSWER coalition, a national social justice movement – said he hopes there’s more than an investigation into the incident.
“The simple conviction of a few officers isn’t necessarily going to fix the problem,” Gallegos said. “A DOJ investigation, while it is welcomed and important, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to fix the problem of police brutality.”
Journal Staff Writer Dan McKay contributed to this report.