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APD: Man shot dead by police pointed gun at bus

Orlando Abeyta (Courtesy Betty Hardrick)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Police say Orlando Abeyta pointed what looked like a gun at passengers on an Albuquerque Rapid Transit bus just a couple of hours before two members of the police department’s gang unit saw him threatening people sitting at another bus stop on Central near San Pedro last month.

The officers fired 10 times and struck 28-year-old Abeyta four times. He died at the scene. Next to him they found what turned out to be a BB gun.

In a news conference Friday morning, Lt. Scott Norris of the Albuquerque Police Department’s Violent Crimes Section, laid out the events that led up to the Jan. 6 shooting.

He said that around 12:20 p.m., officers were called to East Central for reports of a man pointing a gun at bus passengers. A video retrieved by police shows the man touching the barrel of the gun to the bus window a handful of times.

“This incident occurred at the ART bus stop on Louisiana and Central, and provides some insight and context into the behavior the individual was displaying earlier in the day and when officers confronted him,” Norris said.

He said field officers responded, but the suspect ducked into an apartment complex and they lost him.

Norris said shortly before 3 p.m., detectives with the gang unit who were conducting an undercover operation in the area saw Abeyta waving what appeared to be a handgun in the intersection and approaching people on the south side of Central.

Detective Adrian Montoya and officer Bryce Willsey pulled up as Abeyta crossed Central toward a bus stop on the north side of the street and appeared to wave a handgun at a woman in “an aggressive manner.”

“These detectives were working in a plain clothes capacity earlier in the day,” Norris said. “When they confronted Abeyta, they put on their marked police vests to ensure this individual knew he was in fact dealing with police officers.”

Video of the incident shows both Montoya and Willsey stopping their vehicles in the bus lane and getting out, ordering Abeyta to drop the gun and get on the ground. Norris said Abeyta instead pointed the gun at the officers and that’s when they opened fire about 80 feet from him.

“Both detectives fired several times,” Norris said. “Detective Montoya reassessed the situation and noticed Abeyta was still presenting a threat. He fired his rifle again, stopping Abeyta’s action.”

Next to Abeyta was a BB gun, which resembled a real gun.

Norris said the people at the bus stop were not interviewed at the time because they were intoxicated. He said investigators are trying to find them to talk to them.

Abeyta’s mother told the Journal last month his brother was with him. She said Abeyta grew up in To’Hajiilee and Albuquerque, and frequently hung out in that area on East Central.

Both Montoya and Willsey are with the gang unit within the investigations bureau.

“Usually, … we identify the officers involved by showing a picture,” Norris said. “In this particular instance, we’re not going to do that because these officers work in an undercover capacity at this time and we’re doing this to protect them, as well as their identity.”

Montoya has been with the department since 2003 and has been involved in two other shootings. Willsey has been with APD since 2015 and has also been involved in two other shootings.

When asked about Willsey’s three shootings since 2018, Police Chief Michael Geier said all officers go through a decompression period and see a psychiatrist before they return to work.

“Obviously, in this case, he’s worked in an area where he might be more prone to be involved,” Geier said. “… But if they have multiple shootings, we have to look into that and see if it has a cumulative effect.”

This was the first shooting of 2020 involving APD. Then, on Jan. 23, officers shot and injured Daniel Montoya, 31, who they said had gone on a cross-town shooting spree.


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