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County hit with second suit over deputy’s fatal shooting of two men

A second lawsuit has been filed against Bernalillo County in connection with a deputy who shot and killed two men after a car chase.

It was filed last month in U.S. District Court against the county, Sheriff Manuel Gonzales and deputy Joshua Mora, who shot and killed Martin Jim, 25, and Isaac Padilla, 23, on Nov. 17 near Coors and Glenrio NW. Neither man had a weapon, but Gonzales has said Mora was scared either he or his sergeant would have been struck by the truck if it had driven toward them.

The lawsuit, like similar recent lawsuits that have been filed against the county, says the sheriff and county policymakers have refused to correct “obvious and known deficiencies” to policies guiding use-of-force, vehicle pursuits, shooting at vehicles and cameras. It says those policies contributed to deputies being involved in nine shootings in 2017, which was an unusually high number for the agency.

The lawsuit points out that after the Department of Justice found in 2014 that Albuquerque police had a pattern of excessive, the police department changed many of its policies. The sheriff’s office hasn’t made similar changes despite receiving requests from community advocates that they make changes and start wearing cameras, for example.

“This refusal is in spite of substantial information that the use of on-body cameras increases officer accountability,” the suit states.

Sheriff’s office officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Luis Robles, Mora’s attorney, said BCSO and other law enforcement agencies don’t have to make significant changes to how they operate because of the Albuquerque police reform effort.

“It’s a very interesting argument, even though your systems weren’t broken — BCSO wasn’t shooting the mentally ill and didn’t have problems reviewing its shootings — you should have reformed them anyway,” Robles said. The reforms “only apply to the entity where there are findings. Not to everyone else.”

Former Albuquerque City Attorney Jessica Hernandez, now in private practice, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Padilla’s family. The family is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for Padilla’s death. Padilla was the driver and Jim was a front-seat passenger.

Albuquerque Attorney Sam Bregman has filed a separate lawsuit on behalf of Jim’s girlfriend.

Hernandez said Padilla’s family hope the lawsuit answers their questions about why he was shot.

“This case raises important questions about the policies of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department and the use of deadly force by its deputies. While other departments across the country have made significant changes in their policies on use of force, shooting at vehicles, and video-recording civilian interactions, Bernalillo County has not,” Hernandez said in a statement. “Even as the number of deputy-involved shootings has increased, the county has resisted adopting the kind of on-body camera policy that is becoming common in other departments as a way to increase both officer accountability and officer safety.”

Gonzales has said he is considering hiring an outside firm to audit the sheriff’s office policies. It’s not clear if he has done that.

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