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Editorial: Guilty verdict in officer’s death ends painful chapter

The people of Albuquerque, the men and women of its police department and especially the family and friends of officer Daniel Webster can finally have some sense of closure with last week’s jury verdict finding career criminal Davon Lymon guilty of Webster’s murder.

Daniel Webster

Barring a reversal on appeal, Lymon will spend the rest of his life behind bars after 10 women and two men on the state District Court panel found him guilty of all six counts he was facing, including first-degree murder. The trial included a parade of 30 witnesses and lawyer arguments that played out over 13 days, but the jury took just two hours to reject Lymon’s claim of self defense in which he portrayed himself as a black man fearful of anyone wearing an APD uniform, given the department’s well-documented use of excessive force.

Webster couldn’t defend himself in court. But his lapel cam – are you paying attention Sheriff Manny Gonzales? – told the real story of what unfolded after Webster pulled over Lymon near Eubank and Central for driving a suspected stolen motorcycle.

Lymon claimed he thought he heard Webster say that more cops were coming to “put you in the ground,” but the footage clearly showed the officer said “on the ground.” And it showed that Webster was trying to put Lymon in handcuffs – hardly an execution – when Lymon pulled his own weapon and gunned down the officer, firing multiple times. The jury never heard the fact that Lymon had already been sentenced to 38 years in federal court as part of the U.S. Attorney’s “Worst of the Worst” program for other crimes in the same incident – namely being a convicted felon in possession of heroin and a weapon.

“He (Webster) was simply trying to put that man in handcuffs,” lead prosecutor Clara Moran told the jury. “And for that he lost his life.”

The death of any officer in the line of duty is devastating, but Webster’s story is especially tragic. It is a story of service to his country and to his community. Survived by his wife, Michelle Carlino-Webster, also a law enforcement officer and who attended the trial, he was a decorated Army veteran who served multiple deployments and combat tours including Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. He was awarded two bronze stars and was a jump master with 112 jumps. He retired as a Sergeant First Class out of the 82nd Airborne after 20 years of service. He joined the Albuquerque Police Department, where he had nine years on the job before that fateful traffic stop that ended with Lymon shooting him in the stomach, chest and jaw with a .40-caliber pistol. Webster died eight days later in the arms of his wife – his End of Watch.

His obituary described him as a private man who enjoyed time alone with his wife and their dogs, who loved his job and always went to work with a smile.

It is important to note that footage from Webster’s lapel camera – a technology Sheriff Gonzales has adamantly resisted for his department – was a key to jurors coming to their decision and rejecting any argument of “reasonable doubt” despite Lymon’s testimony. Don’t Bernalillo County deputies deserve this protection as well in their everyday duties?

APD officers including Chief Michael Geier stood outside the courthouse to applaud Carlino-Webster as she left the courthouse. And former APD Chief Gorden Eden was by her side in the courtroom during the trial.

As for the rest of us, it seems appropriate to take a moment to once again thank Dan Webster for his service to country and community. And to express condolences to his widow, who told a Journal reporter in the courtroom after the verdict was read that “justice has been served.”

“It’s over,” she said as she embraced relatives and friends. “It’s finally over.”

In this case, let’s hope so.

It’s also a reminder that policing is an inherently dangerous job – and we are lucky to have officers like Daniel Webster, professional and dedicated, who risk their lives to keep the rest of us safe.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.