ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Attorneys for the family of Christopher Torres, a schizophrenic man living with his parents who was fatally shot by police in April 2011, are alleging in a federal lawsuit that the culture at the Albuquerque Police Department permitted systematic use of excessive force.
The lawsuit filed this week by attorneys Randi McGinn and Kathy Love for Stephen Torres, the representative of his son’s estate, names the city, APD and Officers Christopher Brown and Richard Hilger as defendants.
APD violated Torres’ civil rights and his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the complaint alleges. It says the officers’ alleged violations resulted in the wrongful death of Torres, who was unarmed.
“When made aware of problems of the systematic use of excessive force and violation of citizens’ rights within the department, police departments such as APD cannot maintain the status quo, but must act to stop such misconduct,” the lawsuit contends.
It says the number of officer-involved deaths by APD exceeds that of other departments of similar size, and it says police are barred from discriminating against a person with a disability.
Torres, who was 27, was being treated by a psychiatrist, working at a job, active in his church and contributing to the household, according to the complaint.
Torres’ parents had informed APD more than once, it says, of their son’s diagnosis and that he should be contacted by specially trained crisis intervention officers if police presence became necessary. The parents had also offered to aid police if they needed to make contact with their son, it says.
That information was never transmitted to officers who might encounter him, although APD knew Torres had a pending case in which his competency was being evaluated, according to the complaint.
The action seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from APD and the two officers.
APD policy is to not comment on pending litigation, but it has defended the Torres shooting saying officers were defending their lives.
The department also announced last year planned policy changes forwarded by a think tank that studied officer-involved shootings for several months.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal