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Editorial: Officer, APD go forward after tragic Boyd shooting

Dominique Perez, one of two Albuquerque police officers who stood trial for the controversial shooting death of homeless camper James Boyd in March 2014, has survived a three-year ordeal you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

After being charged with murder, fired from APD, enduring a 15-week trial that ended in a hung jury and nearly going bankrupt, the decorated Iraq war veteran fought tenaciously to get his job back. That finally happened on May 30.

As it should have.

During the October 2016 trial, it became clear that Perez – who arrived at the hourslong standoff with Boyd in the Sandia foothills just three minutes before the fatal shots were fired – was far less culpable than fellow officer Keith Sandy, who fired the first shot and stood trial with Perez.

Testimony showed that Perez was following orders, employing his SWAT training and protecting fellow officers after Boyd, who had a history of diagnosed mental illness, pulled out two knives as he was being attacked by a police dog. Still, APD protocol led to Perez’s firing when charges were filed.

Sandy, whom prosecutors claimed escalated the situation, retired within months of the shooting and receives a $37,000 annual pension.

Perez isn’t getting a free walk back into APD. He’s on administrative assignment and will not respond to calls with the tactical unit or provide any type of patrol services for one year.

During that time, he must complete all of APD’s new training, which has been revamped under a settlement agreement with the U.S. Justice Department spurred in part by the Boyd shooting; undergo state-required training; and pass a psychological exam. Perez will receive $143,159 in back wages and benefits.

The controversy of the Boyd shooting and subsequent trial were inconsistent with Perez’s history of public service. The Albuquerque native and Del Norte High School graduate joined the Marine Corps in 2000 and served two tours in Iraq. He was injured in 2003 when a convoy he was leading was hit by an improvised explosive device, and he was awarded a Purple Heart. He joined APD in 2006.

Time will tell whether Perez and APD – which paid Boyd’s family a $5 million settlement, and continues to implement training and policy reforms after the DOJ found a “pattern and practice of excessive force” and a “culture of aggression” – can successfully move forward from the Boyd shooting.

But both deserve that chance.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.