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Oversight Board: Suspend 2 APD officers

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Danan Gabaldon

The city’s Police Oversight Board recommended that two officers receive lengthy suspensions after reviewing an internal affairs investigation into an officer-involved shooting that took place in June 2015.

The Albuquerque Police Department’s internal affairs unit last month had exonerated the officers involved.

But the board Thursday night found that the officers violated numerous policies and used questionable tactics during the arrest of Danan Gabaldon. One detective drove a truck into the suspect as he fled on foot.

“The key ingredient here is that once he got out of his car he was weaponless and deadly force was used against him,” said Joanne Fine, the chairwoman of the POB.

Referring to the internal affairs conclusion, Ed Harness, the executive director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency, said at the POB meeting that the case was another example of the police not holding themselves accountable.

Board members voted unanimously, recommending 512 hours of suspension for one detective and 240 hours of suspension for another detective. The officers were not identified by name.

The day of his arrest, Gabaldon was wanted on aggravated assault on a police officer and other charges. He was suspected of driving a car at a police officer days earlier.

Gabaldon has since pleaded guilty to that and several other charges against him and is serving time in prison.

Undercover officers tried to stop Gabaldon when he was driving near the 8400 block of Camino San Martin SW. Harness said one detective accidentally backed into a fellow officer’s vehicle, setting off the airbag.

The detective then got out of his vehicle, placing himself directly in Gabaldon’s path, and fired two shots at him. Other officers shot at Gabaldon with beanbag shotguns and electronic control weapons, Harness said.

Gabaldon was able to exit his vehicle and run from officers. A detective then got in a truck and drove onto the sidewalk and into Gabaldon, who smacked into the hood of the truck.

Gabaldon then fell to the ground and officers pounced on him and used a Taser on him multiple times as he was taken into custody, according to video of the incident, which police released in October 2015.

Accountability has been an ongoing concern cited by the independent monitor overseeing a years-long U.S. Department of Justice reform effort that aims to improve the police department.

“The exonerations of these officers in this case further illustrates the monitor’s opinion that the department lacks the ability to hold its officers accountable,” Harness said.

Harness said the department should do a more thorough administrative investigation into the officers, including the supervisor.

The CPOA’s findings will be sent in a letter to Chief Gorden Eden, who is to respond in writing if he is in disagreement, according to city policy.

Albuquerque police officer Tanner Tixier, an APD spokesman, said Friday that the chief hadn’t received Harness’s letter. “As such, it would not be appropriate to comment at this time,” he said.

Gabaldon has sued the city in federal court, seeking damages for alleged excessive force and civil rights violations.

The District Attorney’s Office hasn’t announced whether it will bring charges against the officers involved in the incident.

Harness was critical of several tactics police used in making the arrest, including using unmarked police vehicles instead of marked patrol units to stop him.

He said striking Gabaldon with a vehicle violated several policies, and was unjustified because Gabaldon wasn’t an immediate threat to police or the public at the time. The detective who shot at him also violated policies, Harness said.

The oversight agency is recommending that the officer who shot at Gabaldon be suspended for 512 hours and the officer who struck him with a vehicle get a 240-hour suspension.

The chief has the final say over what discipline to hand down.

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