Armand Martin, the 50-year-old West Side Albuquerque man shot by police Saturday after a SWAT standoff, had been taking medication for depression and had been particularly depressed in the days before he was killed, his wife told police.
During the five-hour standoff, the Air Force veteran barricaded himself inside his Ventana Ranch West home. After several hours, Martin fired numerous shots out into the neighborhood and police fired flash bangs into the home. The standoff ended when Martin, armed with two guns, ran from the house firing more shots. He was shot once by police and died at the scene.
The shooting was APD’s fourth fatal officer-involved shooting since mid-March and the second since the federal Department of Justice released a report saying APD violated citizens constitutional rights by using excessive force.
Martin’s wife, Gail Martin, had called police Saturday around noon reporting that her husband had threatened her and their two children by “chambering a round” in a handgun, police have said. She and the children had left the house before the standoff.
She told KOAT-TV on Monday that her husband had seemed fine earlier in the day Saturday. She said when she called police, she expected him to cooperate with them and thought the worst that could happen to him would be time in jail.
She said she’s reserving judgment on whether the shooting was justified while she focuses on funeral arrangements for her husband of 14 years, and taking care of her 14-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter.
However, at least one neighbor said she is thankful for the way Albuquerque police handled the situation.
Christina Kramer, whose family lives in the home behind the Martins’ house, credited police officers with keeping her and her family informed and safe during the tense situation. She said her family arrived home at 5 p.m. during the standoff to find SWAT members in her backyard.
She said their actions prevented anyone else in the neighborhood from being hurt.
“They did everything in their power to protect my family,” Kramer said.
“A lot of people are saying, ‘Oh, it’s another police shooting.’ … He had two guns. I don’t know what they expect (the police) to do.”
The DOJ report criticized the way APD officers handled some cases involving suspects with mental health issues.
During Sunday’s standoff, Albuquerque police tried to get details about Martin’s mental health problems from the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center hospital in hopes it would help with the situation.
The VA center, however, could not release the information because of patient privacy laws, a spokesman said Monday.
APD Deputy Chief Eric Garcia said at a news conference Sunday that Martin had been treated at the VA hospital for “significant mental health issues.” Martin also had been an employee at the hospital since March 2012, working as an administrative officer for surgical services.
Garcia said officers knew from police reports that Martin had a history of suicide attempts and threats.
APD did not respond to questions Monday about how information from the VA about Martin’s medical history might have affected Saturday’s standoff.
The department said it would release more information about the shooting today.
“We make every attempt to cooperate with APD by providing that portion of a patient’s medical history that is relevant to the situation, but not a veteran’s full medical history,” said Bill Armstrong, a spokesman for the New Mexico VA Health Care System. “We have a duty to protect the patient’s privacy, even in a crisis situation.”
A federal law bars health care providers from giving police a patient’s confidential medical information, even during an emergency such as the one Saturday, said Michael Maestas, the clinical manager of psychotherapy at the University of New Mexico Hospital.
“For the most part, all mental health, all medical, records are private information and cannot be released without permission of the patient,” he said. “That’s the norm for most all institutions.”
One of the exceptions to the law is when officers could use the information to “prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of an individual or the public,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website.
But Maestas said that exception is to allow a licensed practitioner with a concern about a patient to contact law enforcement. It is not intended to allow law enforcement to contact a suspect’s health care practitioner.
Garcia said at the Sunday news conference that officers used several strategies for dealing with mentally ill people during the Martin standoff. A crisis intervention unit and a department psychologist were at the scene, in addition to the SWAT team.
Neighbors said police spoke over loudspeakers for hours to try to get Martin to leave his home peacefully.
Eventually, police shot flash bangs into the home and Martin started to fire his weapons from inside. He ran out while shooting guns and was killed about 6:15 p.m., police said.