Mickey Owings was fatally shot in a Wal-Mart parking lot after he dropped another person off at a vehicle that police believed to be stolen. The case was one of the shootings that was criticized by the Department of Justice in a 2014 findings letter that found Albuquerque police had a pattern of using excessive force. Those findings have led to an ongoing reform effort by the police department.
Plainclothes officers had surrounded Owings’ car and blocked him from leaving. Owings then backed his vehicle into a police vehicle and then crashed into parked cars in an apparent attempt at escape when he was shot by officer Kevin Sanchez.
The police “created a chaotic situation where plainclothes officers … are engaged in an ad hoc or unplanned attempt to arrest him and they shot him,” said Albuquerque attorney Joseph Kennedy, who represented the family. “There was no reason given what’s at stake — a stolen car — to shoot him.”
The DOJ, in its 2014 letter to the city, found that in many Albuquerque police shootings, including that of Owings, officers acted recklessly and created the dangerous situation.
“Owings did not pose a threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or anyone else; he was driving straight into unoccupied, parked cars when he was shot. This damage to property, as serious as it was, did not justify taking Owings’ life,” the DOJ wrote.
Kennedy said his firm was approached by Owings’ family after the DOJ’s findings letter was released. That was more than four years after the shooting. Because so much time had passed, Kennedy said the only claim still available to Owings’ family was a loss of consortium claim, which essentially means the children were seeking damages for their loss of a relationship with Owings.
The city filed a motion to dismiss, citing four reasons the plaintiffs didn’t comply with Tort Claims Act rules. Second Judicial District Judge Denise Barela-Shepherd dismissed the complaint based on one of those reasons. New Mexico Court of Appeals Court Judge Michael Bustamante wrote in the opinion reversing the dismissal that the district court judge erred when she dismissed the complaint because the children did not suffer a battery.
Barela-Shepherd approved the settlement this week.
“The parties reached an agreement on the Owings case, which is one of the last few remaining cases still pending from the previous administration listed in the DOJ report,” Alicia Manzano, a spokeswoman for Mayor Tim Keller, said in a prepared statement.