ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The instructor for the Albuquerque Police Department’s deadly force training testified Thursday that the officer fired over excessive force in 2011 should have waited until the “monster” he was arresting did something “monstrous” — at least before the officer could justify kicking him and stomping his head on the concrete.
Luis Robles, a former city attorney and instructor for the APD Academy’s “civil rights and lethal force” training, told the city Personnel Board on Thursday during an appeal hearing that even though officers have information that a suspect might be dangerous, they must defer the use of deadly force until they face imminent threat.
“Officers are always at a disadvantage,” Robles told the board. “Suspects act; officers react.”
So despite the information officers received days earlier — some of it false — about suspect Nicholas Blume having just killed a Colorado police officer, his ties to the Aryan Brotherhood gang or his inclination toward violence, Robles said officer John Doyle’s decision to kick and stomp Blume more than 10 times was not just excessive but premature.
“You can make Mr. Blume into a monster, but until that monster does something monstrous, the law prohibits the use of deadly force,” Robles told the board.
Blume was face down in the Barcelona Hotel parking garage after officers Doyle and Robert Woolever tackled him. At first, Blume’s left hand was near his waist and Woolever, seated on top of Blume, had stabilized Blume’s right hand. Doyle testified that he kicked Blume to obtain “pain compliance,” since officers didn’t know whether a gun was in his waistband.
Surveillance video from the parking garage seems to show Blume raising his empty left hand several times, although Doyle did not stop kicking him until after Woolever grabbed both of Blume’s hands behind his back.
Robles said the U.S. Supreme Court has established police need not await the “glint of steel” of a gun before they can use deadly force, but they cannot shoot or, as in Doyle’s case, kick a suspect’s head, until they perceive an imminent threat.
Blume was not carrying a gun when officers tackled and arrested him nor had he killed an officer in Colorado. APD says the Aryan Brotherhood has an ax to grind against the department.
Doyle and Woolever are appealing their terminations to the Personnel Board. Doyle will have another hearing Aug. 17.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal