ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
The man shot and killed by Albuquerque police Thursday night was brandishing a bloodied box cutter and asking them to shoot him before two officers fired what sounded like six shots at him, officials said Friday afternoon.
Police tentatively identified the suspect as Ralph Chavez.
Several people interviewed by the Journal on Friday in the area of Second Street and Interstate 40, where the shooting occurred, said Chavez and his girlfriend hung out in the area. They described themselves as homeless and said Chavez was dealing with alcohol and possible medical issues.
According to police, Chavez was having a fight with his girlfriend when a man came up to intervene. Chavez slashed him in the neck with the six-inch box cutter with a hooked blade, critically injuring him.
That’s when police were called.
APD Deputy Chief William Roseman said at a news conference Friday that two officers, including one with crisis intervention training, fired at Chavez.
Police did not release lapel camera video of the shooting because Roseman said they are still processing it. Instead, they extracted the audio from one of the officer’s cameras and played that by itself.
In the audio tape, Chavez can be heard shouting “Shoot me! Shoot me!” At least one officer responded by asking him his name, and others could be heard telling him to drop the knife and saying they didn’t want to shoot him.
Roseman said a sergeant had arrived on scene and was about to deploy less lethal weapons against Chavez.
Roseman said officers fired live rounds when Chavez continued to advance at police.
Asked if the officers had the option of continuing to back up and negotiate with Chavez before firing, Roseman said he couldn’t speak for the officers about why they felt compelled to shoot, and that the investigation is ongoing.
The audio tape, which starts with Chavez shouting at police and ends with the shots fired, lasted just over a minute.
Roseman showed a picture of the box cutter he said Chavez threatened police with. It had obvious blood stains at its hooked edge. Roseman also showed a picture of a small knife, which he said Chavez had on him at the time of the shooting. He said Chavez was not threatening officers with that knife.
At least six shots
Just after 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, police arrived east of the Family Dollar on Second Street near Interstate 40 after getting reports of a man who had attacked a woman. They then got calls about a possible stabbing victim.
According to 911 tapes, one man called police from the liquor store across the street to say that a man who was bleeding “a lot, a lot” had showed up at his store. The man said he had been “jumped” and later said he was stabbed.
Police arrived to find that victim, described as a “good Samaritan” because he tried to intervene between Chavez and the woman, and he was rushed him to the hospital. He’s in critical condition.
Police later found Chavez south of the Family Dollar store and confronted him, and that’s when shots were fired.
What sounded like at least six gunshots could be heard on the audio tape, though police did not go into detail about how many shots were fired or how many times Chavez was struck.
A ‘really good guy’
Several people who said they knew Chavez were gathered at a nearby park Friday morning, though none would give his or her name. They said Chavez went by “Antonio” but they all said his full name was Ralph Chavez.
One woman said she was near Chavez and his girlfriend Thursday night when she saw Chavez throw a Coke can at her face. That’s when another man, who she said went by the nickname “Boston,” tried to intervene and said something to the effect of “Real men don’t hit women.” She said Chavez and his girlfriend had been drinking.
When “Boston” arrived, she said, Chavez took something from his pocket and slashed at “Boston’s” neck. Several trails of bloodstains could be seen on the wall and speckled on a bench just east of the Family Dollar store Friday morning.
The woman, who was homeless, said she and her companions then left the scene to avoid police.
Other people in the area described Chavez as a “really good guy” who was dealing with alcohol and potentially medical issues. Two people, interviewed separately, said Chavez was known to be off his medication but they could not say whether he was diagnosed with a mental or other type of illness.
“‘Antonio’ is a really, really good person, even though he is kind of a woman beater,” said “T,” a homeless man who was avoiding the rain under the Interstate on Friday morning.
The shooting is the Albuquerque Police Department’s fifth in just over two months, all of which have been fatal, and comes six weeks after the Department of Justice released a report blasting APD for excessive force and other issues. The Thursday night shooting is the department’s 26th fatal shooting since 2010.
The city and the DOJ are in the midst of negotiations to draft a court-enforceable agreement to implement reforms. A city-hired attorney recently said a draft agreement should be completed shortly.