Between 2010 and March of this year, the city paid out $23 million in excessive force and wrongful death lawsuits filed against the Albuquerque Police Department. And it’s going up.
That number includes the $10.3 million initial judgment at trial in a wrongful death suit over the shooting of Kenneth Ellis II, an Iraq war veteran with mental health issues, fatally shot in 2010. A judge found liability, leaving it to a jury to decide the amount of damages. After the verdict, a settlement was reached for $8.3 million, including legal costs, though a judge must approve it before it can be paid.
Some cases in the court pipeline are likely to result in payments, such as the shooting of Christopher Torres, an unarmed man sitting alone in his backyard when plainclothes officers jumped a fence. A confused Torres told them he’d done nothing wrong and in the ensuing struggle he was killed.
The 2011 fatal shooting of Alan Gomez, a 22-year-old man who was holding a black plastic spoon when he emerged from a house, was settled early this year for a $900,000 payment to the family, but the case cost the city $1.04 million including fees and costs. Gomez had been holding his brother and the brother’s girlfriend hostage, police said, and he came outside after 45 minutes of negotiations at the scene.
In 2012, 2013 and the first four months of this year, the city paid out a total of $11.45 million for cases arising from August 2006 through November 2012 – some predating the current administration, which took over in December 2009.
According to information provided by City Attorney David Tourek, APD excessive force lawsuits filed since July 2011 include the following. Employment civil rights suits are not included.
- Sanchez, Ricky v. Officer Joshua Richards. Bar patron going home curses police, alleges broken fingers and back injury during arrest, federal jury returns verdict in favor of APD.
- Torres, Stephen, personal representative for Christopher Torres v. City of Albuquerque, ex. rel Albuquerque Police Department. Fatal shooting of Christopher Torres on April 12, 2011. Awaiting ruling by judge following bench trial.
- Higgins, Rachel, personal representative of the estate of Enrique Carrasco, et al. v. Josh Brown, et al. Fatal shooting of Carrasco on Aug. 17, 2010. Case dismissed April 3.
- Wharton, Annelle, personal representative of the estate of Kenneth Ellis, III, v. Officer Brett Lampiris-Tremba, et al. Fatal shooting on Jan. 13, 2010, leads to $10 million verdict, settlement reached for about $8 million.
- Hunick, Leonard v. Albuquerque Police Officers Andrew Hsu and Cole Knight. Tasering of unarmed man. Case settled in 2012 for $31,741.
- Cordova, Stephan v. City of Albuquerque, et al. Plaintiff shot by APD with resulting multiple surgeries. Verdict in favor of APD at federal jury trial.
- Bell, Krystal, as personal representative of Jacob Adam Mitschelen v. Byron “Trey” Economidy III, et al. Fatal shooting in the back on Feb. 9, 2011, settled for $300,000.
- Torres, Robert v. Francisco Hernandez, et al. Alleged unlawful detention and excessive force after a call about a potential suicide. Case settled in 2012 for $298,000.
- Higgins, Rachel, as personal representative for the estate of Alan Gomez, et al. v. Sean Wallace, et al., Fatal shooting of man holding a plastic spoon by APD; officer was told the man shot a rifle earlier; officer had been pressured to leave State Police and had a prior fatal civilian shooting. Settled for $900,000.
- Diamond, Renee and Brendan Rogillio v. City of Albuquerque, et al. Officers decide fair-skinned blond man is the heavyset Hispanic described by a witness as a store robber, home is surrounded by armed officers and wife is forced out wearing only a towel. Case settled, amount not immediately available.
- Otero, James v. Victor Grossetete, et al. Man wearing headphones rushing for a bus has arm broken during jaywalking arrest when officer tackles him. Case settled, amount not immediately available.
- Tenorio, Russell v. Brian Pitzer, et al., and Tenorio, Russell v. Andrea Ortiz. Suicidal man with traumatic brain injury shot in stomach at close range after family calls police; he loses kidney and part of intestine. Pending trial in federal court.
- Browder, Charles, et al. v. City of Albuquerque, et al. Former APD Sgt. Adam Casaus in fatal crash that kills Ashley Browder on Paseo del Norte; he now faces criminal charges in her death. Consolidated civil cases pending 2015 trial in federal court.
- Duran, Paul Edward v. Robert Woolever, et al. Alleged beating and macing while Duran was handcuffed by APD officer who was subsequently fired, and is appealing his termination. Pending in federal court.
- Blume, Nicholas v. Robert Woolever and John Doyle. Blume allegedly was kicked repeatedly while being arrested in a parking garage. The incident was caught on surveillance tape and officers were terminated. Pending in federal court.
- Dorato, Veronica, as personal representative of Daniel Tillison, et al. v. Officer Martin Smith, et al. Lawsuit filed last month over the fatal shooting of Tillison by Smith on March 19, 2012, after officer responded to call about sale of stolen merchandise; Tillison smashed into police cruiser trying to leave.
- Ortega, Joaquin, v. City of Albuquerque. Complaint for injuries when Officer Brian Pitzer saw Ortega in a parking lot, chased him and saw him throw away gun but shot Ortega multiple times in the back. Pending.