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Lawsuit Filed Over Access to Facebook Pages

By Jeff Proctor
Copyright © 2011 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          Local civil rights attorneys who are suing the Albuquerque Police Department over an officer-involved shooting want access to the Facebook pages of all 57 officers who were at the scene of the shooting.
        APD Detective Bret Lampiris-Tremba fatally shot Iraq war veteran Kenneth Ellis outside a Northeast Albuquerque convenience store in January 2010.
        Police have described the shooting as "suicide by cop," and Lampiris-Tremba has been cleared of wrongdoing by both APD Internal Affairs and a Bernalillo County grand jury.
        But attorneys at the Kennedy Law Firm and the Law Office of Frances Crockett allege that the city was responsible for "wrongful death due to battery and negligent battery" and "negligent training, supervision and retention."
        Frances Crockett said in an interview this week that recent news stories about APD officers' controversial posts on Facebook caught her attention.
        In one, APD Detective Trey Economidy III listed his job description as "human waste disposal."
        Economidy, who fatally shot Jacob Mitschelen during a traffic stop last month, was one of the officers on scene when Ellis was shot, Crockett said.
        Crockett wanted a closer look at officers' activities on the social networking website, so she filed a request for discovery asking for the log-in information for the Facebook accounts of the 57 officers there the day Ellis was killed.
        "We believe many of these officers are friends with each other on Facebook and that they may have engaged in a dialogue about their interpretation of the events surrounding the death of our client," Crockett said. "Officers are going to reflect themselves in a completely different fashion when they think no one is watching. We think they will be more candid (on Facebook) than they will during a deposition or an Internal Affairs interview.
        "The media stories (about officers' Facebook posts) has given rise to us asking for this information, especially considering that the city is doing an investigation and changing its policies regarding Facebook."
        APD officials are drafting a new social media policy in the wake of Economidy's and other officers' posts.
        Assistant City Attorney Kathy Levy said she will file an objection to Crockett's request.
        "The lawsuit is against the city of Albuquerque, singularly," she said. "There are still expectations of privacy for the officers, who are not named parties to this lawsuit."

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