Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Several family members of men shot and killed by Albuquerque police want the city to cancel a national police-shooting competition it’s hosting next month, calling the event insensitive to the relatives of those who have been killed.
About 20 people gathered on Civic Plaza Wednesday evening to protest the Albuquerque Police Pistol Combat Tournament and the National Police Shooting Championship, coming to Albuquerque from Sept. 10 to 18. Several people spoke on the plaza and then took the elevator to Mayor Richard Berry’s office, where they hoped
to deliver a letter that asked Berry to cancel the competition, which is organized by the National Rifle Association.
Doors leading to the mayor’s office were locked and security guards told the protesters the building was closed for the day. The guards said they would deliver any letters to the mayor.
The city of Albuquerque said the event is welcomed and brings about $160,000 in spending to the city. This year’s competition will be the eighth consecutive year the city has hosted the event, according to an NRA spokesman.
The event is expected to draw more than 500 people, including event organizers. Officers from throughout the country and a few from other countries will compete, according to the spokesman.
“We welcome the opportunity to host law enforcement professionals from around the world here in our beautiful city and we thank them for their commitment and service at the local, state and federal levels to keeping our communities and nation safe,” Breanna Anderson, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said in a statement.
The competition takes current and former law enforcement officers from local, state and federal agencies and has them compete against one another in a wide range of shooting scenarios. For example, one scenario calls on officers to simulate shooting at drunken men with knives who are charging at the officer after leaving a nightclub. Another drill has the officers pretend they have been shot in the arm of their primary shooting hand, and they must use the other hand to shoot at targets, according to the competition’s website.
The mayor’s office and Albuquerque police didn’t specifically address the concerns of the protesters, who said Albuquerque shouldn’t host a police-shooting tournament given the number of officer-involved shootings in the city in recent years.
Albuquerque police have shot 37 people since 2010, killing 27.
Berry is “insulting us, the parents of the children that have been killed here, and he’s insulting our city,” said Sylvia Fuentes, whose son was shot and killed by an officer in 2010.
Mike Gomez said the competition isn’t aligned with the city’s publicly stated goals to reform the department after the Department of Justice announced in April that Albuquerque police had a pattern of violating people’s rights through excessive force.
“A department saying that they are going to make change and have community policing, they are doing everything against what they are saying,” said Gomez, whose son was shot and killed by Officer Sean Wallace in 2011.