ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A former Albuquerque police commander in charge of the two officers fired for excessive force in 2011 said during a Wednesday city personnel hearing that he told his officers the man they were looking for had killed a Colorado police officer the day before.
But the commander then said he never tried to verify that information before he put a warning memo in each of his officers’ mailboxes.
The suspect, Nicholas Blume, did not kill an officer and was unarmed when officers arrested and beat him in the Barcelona Hotel parking garage in February 2011.
Murray Conrad, then-APD Southeast Area commander, said the information received from the city’s gang unit about Blume was incorrect, and the intelligence could have influenced the way they approached the suspect the next day.
“I received information from my intelligence unit that Mr. Blume was a threat to law enforcement officers,” Conrad said during the appeal hearing for John Doyle, the APD officer who was fired in November 2011 after surveillance video recorded him kicking Blume at least 10 times, including several times in the head.
“That (intelligence) is not true, but that’s the information I had when I made the decision,” he said. Conrad also said the gang unit advised officers that if they encountered Blume, “You’re probably going to have to shoot him.”
Chris Luttrell, a detective in APD’s gang unit, told the board that the unit held meetings throughout the city to warn officers that Blume was dangerous and needed to be approached with caution.
Luttrell said he met with Doyle and other officers in the Southeast Area Command and told them to “be very, very careful” when dealing with Blume. “He’s going to run, he’s going to shoot it out with you,” Luttrell said he told officers.
Conrad pointed at these warnings and the faulty intelligence as a possible reason behind the officers’ response. He said their belief that Blume was armed and a cop-killer justified “hands-on” force.
The former commander, now a full-time hot-air balloon pilot, has said that Doyle – despite Doyle’s own testimony – never intentionally kicked Blume in the head, and all kicks that ended up there were accidental or glanced off Blume’s shoulder.
“If any kick was aimed at his head,” Conrad told Deputy City Attorney Kathryn Levy during the city’s personnel board hearing, “I’d be on your side of the table.”
Officers are trained to obtain “pain compliance” by directing strikes at pressure points in large muscle masses, and since Blume’s arms were underneath him and near his waistband, Conrad said Doyle’s response was appropriate to prevent Blume from producing a weapon.
Officers later found a gun in Blume’s vehicle, according to testimony at the hearing.
Conrad also credited Doyle with saving the life of the other fired officer, Robert Woolever, during the arrest, and he said APD Chief Ray Schultz bent to political pressure and pressure from the media when he took over Conrad’s initial internal affairs investigation.
Woolever is also appealing his termination. The personnel board will meet again today to discuss Doyle’s appeal, and again Aug. 17.
Earlier in Conrad’s testimony, Levy pressed him about his decision to review “over and over” the surveillance video before booking it into evidence. Conrad said he took the original video disc home with him so he could review it on his large home television.
“Is there really an excuse for this not going into evidence?” Levy asked Conrad.
“No,” Conrad said.
Journal staff writer Olivier Uyttebrouck contributed to this report.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal