The man who died during APD’s most recent officer-involved shooting had a history of mental illness and fired numerous shots from inside and outside his West Side home Saturday before a SWAT team member fired a single shot that struck his chest, according to police.
As of Sunday, police had not confirmed if 50-year-old Armand Martin, an Air Force veteran, died from police fire. Police said video and audio evidence would be released Tuesday.
Martin allegedly threatened his wife and two children with a gun around noon Saturday, and one of the children showed police a cellphone video of what looked like Martin “chambering a round in a handgun,” said Albuquerque Police Department Deputy Chief Eric Garcia at a news conference Sunday.
During a 911 call released by police, Martin’s wife says she didn’t know her husband had any guns and didn’t know if it was real.
The SWAT team arrived when Martin refused to come out of the house, police said, and the crisis intervention unit arrived as well.
“It was learned that the suspect had been treated at the VA hospital for significant mental health issues,” Garcia said. Police tried to get his health records from the hospital, but the hospital refused to give them up, Garcia said.
“It was learned through prior police reports that the suspect did have a history of suicide attempts and threats,” Garcia said. Garcia said Martin wouldn’t talk to negotiators, instead holding his phone to a stereo or television when they called.
The department has used force excessively against people with mental illness, according to the Department of Justice report released less than a month ago, stating APD violated residents’ constitutional rights through its use of force.
It is the department’s 25th officer-involved shooting to end in a fatality since 2010, and is the second fatal shooting since the DOJ report was released April 10. In that report, the DOJ singled out the SWAT team as one of the department’s problematic units.
Police said Martin fired into the neighborhood from the second floor of his home in Ventana Ranch West around 5:30 p.m. Officers then shot tear gas into the second story, and continued to hear gunshots. About an hour later, Martin came out of the front door “actively shooting with two handguns,” and an officer fired one shot.
When asked if Martin was firing at officers, Garcia said he was firing into the neighborhood. Garcia said police are still investigating and don’t know exactly how many shots Martin allegedly fired, but a photo released by the department showed about 11 casings upstairs and two casings downstairs.
Two handguns were found next to Martin, who was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Garcia. Another was found inside the home, he said.
Garcia did not identify the SWAT team member who fired, except to say he was a 12-year veteran of the department and hadn’t been involved in a previous officer-involved shooting. He is on standard leave.
The DOJ report stated one of the remedial measures APD should implement is a change in policies and procedures governing response to barricaded subjects and other high-intensity situations.
When asked whether any of those concerns surfaced in Saturday’s shooting, Garcia said experienced negotiators tried to reason with Martin for hours and “slow down” the situation before he posed a serious danger to the community by firing. A bullet went through a neighbor’s wall, and Garcia said one was heard above officers’ heads.
Chief Gorden Eden was at Sunday’s news conference and introduced Garcia, but did not comment on the shooting.
Police had negotiated over loudspeakers, fired into windows, swarmed backyards and perched a sniper atop at least one neighbor’s roof during the hours-long standoff, according to neighbors.
Jennifer Kim, who lives two houses up the street from Martin, said Sunday she saw police huddled behind an armored vehicle parked in the street in front of Martin’s house for much of the afternoon Saturday. The police tried to negotiate by loudspeaker.
“They said ‘think of your family.’ That was their focus: consider what will happen to your family,” Kim said. “They were pleading with him. Telling him, please come out with your hands up.”
Rosa Padilla lives next door to the Martins. She said police met with her throughout the day on Saturday and asked her if SWAT team members could use her garage and backyard. She said at one point in the evening she saw police in the backyard fire at the house, but it wasn’t clear to her what weapons the police used.
At the Martins’ home Sunday, more than 10 windows were broken. The glass screen door on the front porch was also shattered and broken glass covered the porch. The garage door appeared broken, also.
No one answered the door at the home Sunday morning. People going in and out of the house Sunday afternoon, apparently friends and family, declined to comment.
Gus and Christina Kramer live directly behind Martin’s home. The Kramer family returned home at 5 p.m. Saturday and found SWAT team members in their backyard and a sniper on their neighbor’s roof.
For an hour and a half, the Kramers said, they intermittently heard what sounded like flash bangs or tear gas being shot into Martin’s home. The final confrontation was a barrage of flashes, booms and gunfire at about 6:30 p.m., they said.
Gus Kramer said a police investigator told him late Saturday night that the suspect fired 13 shots before he was shot and killed.
Martin’s only prior arrest was in July 2007 for misdemeanor battery against a household member. The charge was dismissed, according to a state court website.
Neighbors said the Martins were friendly and had two polite children, a girl in high school and a boy in middle school.
American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson said Sunday that no matter the circumstances of the shooting, the frequency is worrisome.
“The ACLU is deeply concerned by the rising rate of officer-involved shootings … regardless of how APD rationalizes each new shooting, it is simply unacceptable that officers are shooting and killing at least one person in our community every month,” Simonson said in an email. “Aggressive measures are needed to rein in this pattern of violence and they need to be implemented now.”
City Councilor Don Harris said the department does have some problems, but said shootings aren’t necessarily controllable and that his constituents don’t seem as concerned about police violence as they are about general crime.
“If someone has a gun and they point it at an officer, I don’t know what they’re supposed to do,” Harris said. “I think statistically these things happen. It’s going to take us some time to improve the department. We just have to do our best and I think we are.”
Councilor Rey Garduño said he thinks the shooting was a tragedy.
“Even after the DOJ has come out with a fairly detailed report … we have these situations as if we haven’t understood what’s being said,” he said. “There’s no reason to shoot people to prove that they were bad people. I’m disheartened. If somebody was to tell me I was doing something wrong, I would pay attention and not continue to do it.”
Calls to other members of the City Council were not returned.
Of officer-involved shootings, Mayor Richard Berry said in a prepared statement Sunday night that, “When they do occur, we know that each one must be reviewed individually in order to see how we can improve. In some cases, there may be policy, training or mental health systems that require improvement.
“In other cases, it seems our officers can do everything within their power to avoid the use of deadly force, yet they still find themselves having to make split-second decisions that none of us would want to have to make. The key is that we all work together to improve outcomes for our community and our department.”