Albuquerque Journal Special Report
DOJ Investigation of APD
Federal officials are investigating whether the Albuquerque Police Department’s use of force violates citizens’ civil rights.
Cost to the city
Police misconduct lawsuits since 2010 have resulted in a tab of more than $24 million for Albuquerque taxpayers. The number will likely increase as several suits are ongoing and recent officer-involved incidents may result in new lawsuits being filed.
Included in the $24 million figure is a $7.95 million settlement with the family of Iraq War veteran Kenneth Ellis III, who was fatally shot in the neck by APD officer Brett Lampiris-Tremba while holding a gun to his own head. The settlement came after a jury awarded $10.3 million to the the family and the city appealed. The judgement was one of the largest against the city in its history.
Another high-profile case was settled in mid-December 2013, when the city agreed to pay $900,000 to the family of Alan Gomez. Gomez was shot by officer Sean Wallace after the girlfriend of Gomez’s brother called police asking for assistance. Police said they believed Gomez was holding his brother and his brother’s girlfriend hostage, but Gomez was unarmed at the time he was shot. The shooting was Wallace’s third in the line of duty.
A lawsuit that is still ongoing involves the fatal shooting of Christopher Torres, who had a history of mental illness and was shot three times in the back at close range in the backyard of his parents Albuquerque home. Torres was the son of Deputy Bernalillo County Manager Renetta Torres.
City Council President Ken Sanchez said the city should consider earmarking more money for the fund that handles legal claims. “This isn’t the last of it,” Sanchez said. “I don’t see how we cannot put additional money in there, based on the amount of these settlements.”
The accompanying slideshow highlights the cases that have been closed since 2010.
City agrees to pay $7.95 million in Ellis shooting
Detective Brett Lampiris-Tremba demonstrates during a wrongful death trial how Iraq war veteran Kenneth Ellis III was holding a gun to his own head when Lampiris-Tremba shot and killed him in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven in 2010.
In an unusual finding prior to the start of the trial, District Judge Shannon Bacon ruled that the shooting was a violation of Ellis’ Fourth Amendment rights -- that Lampiris-Tremba had used excessive force and that an objective officer making reasonable decisions would not have pulled the trigger.
A jury awarded Ellis' family $10.3 million, one of the largest judgments leveled against the city in its history.
After filing an appeal, the city agreed in January 2014 to pay Ellis' family $7.95 million. (Image: Jim Thompson/Journal)
City settles for $950K with Jones family
Brandon Carr adjusts his cap during his graduation ceremony at the Albuquerque Police Academy in 2008.
Carr was fired by APD in 2010 after he shot and killed Rodrick Jones, a 42-year-old father of seven and former U.S. Air Force officer who was employed as a security guard at Kirtland Air Force.
Jones was not armed and was shot in the back outside of a home in 2009 in what APD described a suspected robbery.
In June 2011, the city agreed to pay $950,000 to Jones' family. (Image: Jim Thompson/Journal)
City settles for $150K in ‘secret’ arrest
Benjamin Marquez was shot, but not killed, by officer Zach Stephenson on April 14, 2010, near the intersection of Gibson and Broadway. Marquez was alleged to have pointed a gun at Stephenson during a foot chase.
Later that day, Patricia Silva and her two adult sons were pulled out of their home at gunpoint, thrown to the ground, threatened by snipers, placed in the APD SWAT team’s vehicle and taken to a park before being questioned by police, according to a lawsuit they filed against the city.
APD officers said they were trying to locate the men who had been with Marquez before the chase. The lawsuit claimed that officers' actions were a violation of the due process rights of Silva and her sons, who were not charged with any crime.
The city settled the lawsuit for $150,000 in Dec. 2013. (Image: Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)
Gomez shooting costs city $900,000
APD officials arrive at the home where officer Sean Wallace shot and killed 22-year-old Alan Gomez in 2011.
Police said they believed Gomez was armed with a rifle and holding Gomez's brother and his girlfriend hostage in a northeast Albuquerque home the morning he was shot. Wallace said he feared for the safety of the couple when he fired a shot from across the street after Gomez turned to walk inside. An autopsy showed Gomez was shot in the chest. He was unarmed.
Police said Wallace mistakenly believed a plastic spoon Gomez was holding in his hand was a weapon, but an attorney representing Gomez's family says Gomez had nothing in his hands.
In Dec. 2013, the city agreed to a $900,000 settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Gomez’s family. (Image: Roberto E. Rosales/ Journal)
ABQ Police Shootings
- 1/29/10: Officer Sean Wallace shoots Wayne Cordova
- 3/4/10: Officer Roger Legendre shoots at Jose Castillo
- 4/14/10: Officer Zach Stephenson shoots Benjamin Marquez
- 9/14/10: Officer Leah Kelly shoots Chandler Barr
- 11/11/10: Officer Brian Pitzer shoots Russell Tenorio
- 6/26/11: Officer Damian Lujan shoots Orlando Paisano
- 4/19/12: Officer Mike Hill shoots Dennis Aragon
- 6/20/12: Officer Drew Bader shoots at Santiago Chavez
- 8/6/12: Sgt. Jason Peck shoots Dominick Solis-Mora
- 10/28/13: Officer Brian Pitzer shoots Joaquin Ortega
- 11/15/13: Officer Peter Romero shoots Robert Garcia, Sr.
- 12/1/13: Officers Luke McPeek, David Munoz and Jim Edison shoot Shane Sherrill
- 1/9/14: Detective Russell Carter shoots at Jeremy Robertson’s tires
- 2/13/11: Officers John Doyle and Robert Woolever repeatedly kick Nicholas Blume
- 5/31/12: Officer Connor Rice stuns, hits man multiple times
- 11/30/10: Study: Educated Cops Less Likely To Use Force
- 4/19/11: APD Shootings: No Easy Answers
- 6/25/11: Changes In Store for APD
- 12/11/11: The Roots of APD’s ‘Crisis’?
- 2/6/12: Police Misconduct Costly