An Albuquerque police officer conducting an undercover drug bust shot and injured a suspected drug dealer in a restaurant parking lot near Coors and I-40 Monday afternoon, according to police.
The man shot, who has not been identified, was in critical condition at University of New Mexico Hospital, Deputy Chief Paul Feist said. The man was shot once in the upper chest after pointing a gun at officers.
The incident started shortly before 3 p.m. Monday, when narcotics detectives were conducting a “hand to hand” drug buy in the parking lot at Coors and Iliff. Detectives had been tipped off earlier in the day to drug deals in that area, Feist said. He did not immediately know what kinds of drugs were being sold.
An undercover detective began a transaction with the suspected drug dealer. The man got into the detective’s car and proceeded with the transaction, Feist said. Just after the drugs were exchanged, another officer who was not in uniform but wearing a police-marked vest approached the undercover car. That’s when the suspect pulled a handgun and pointed it at officers, Feist said. The officer who approached the car then fired one shot at the suspect.
The undercover detective was still in the car with the suspect when the shot was fired, Feist said.
Police also detained three people who were being questioned but so far have made no arrests.
The parking lot was roped off for several hours, and employees were sent home but forced to leave their cars in the lot.
Police said they were reviewing lapel cameras that the detectives were wearing and would have more information today.
Monday’s shooting brings to 25 the number of officer-involved shootings since 2010. Seventeen of those were fatal.
APD has come under fire from civil rights activists and some of the families of people who have been shot by officers. In fact, about a half-dozen activists again showed up at the City Council meeting Monday night to air their concerns about police shootings.
The U.S. Justice Department announced last August that it was considering a civil rights investigation of APD. The Justice Department has not yet announced whether it will investigate.
Officials have implemented several changes related to officers’ use of force based on recommendations from a national law enforcement think tank, and the department recently hired a civilian director for its training academy, who will oversee a shift in training that focuses more on de-escalation techniques and less on paramilitary training. Also, officers will now be required to record all citizen encounters with lapel-mounted cameras, and sergeants are now required to respond to all top-priority calls.