Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Countless people remember Ken Reiss.
The 50-year-old was part-owner at Carraro’s & Joe’s Place – a divey fixture in the University area – for decades.
Reiss could often be found tending bar, clad in jeans and heavy metal shirts, to a host of regulars as they debated “Jeopardy!” over drinks. Friends say Reiss went above and beyond for his patrons, ensuring they were safe and – to do that – even opening his home to them.
That all came to a screeching halt early Tuesday when Albuquerque police fatally shot Reiss near his home after he called to report that multiple people had broken in.
Police say Reiss fired at officers before they shot back and that nobody else was found in the area. However, neighbors say they heard a man and woman yelling “get out of here” before gunfire rang out – two shots at first and then a barrage that followed 10 minutes later when police arrived.
Joshua Rodgers, who lives across the street from where Reiss was killed, said his doorbell camera caught the entire thing.
In the video, he said, you see Reiss hide behind a vehicle moments before officers approach on foot.
“He wasn’t being aggressive, he was just cowering,” Rodgers said. “I don’t fully believe he knew they were cops. I think he was just confused.”
As the officers move past the vehicle, he said they spot Reiss behind it and all point their guns, saying “show us your hands” but never identifying themselves as officers.
Rodgers said they opened fire and then, as Reiss can be heard screaming, police yell “drop it” repeatedly.
“Then four more shots – and no more screaming,” Rodgers said.
Gilbert Gallegos, an Albuquerque police spokesman, said the officers who responded were in uniform and marked units.
“I don’t know the details of the encounter, including what they saw, other than what we said in the initial statement,” he said. “All of those details, including whether a gun was located, are part of the ongoing investigation.”
Reiss had no known criminal history outside of a few traffic violations.
The incident was one of two fatal police shootings that happened in a five-hour period.
A search warrant affidavit left on Reiss’ couch, and found by friends who went to his home after he didn’t show up to work, lays out the police account of the events.
It paints a hectic and confusing portrait of the incident.
According to the search warrant:
Reiss called 911 around 12:30 a.m. and said two people broke into his home in the 2700 block of Garfield SE, near Girard, and he had shot them both.
“The caller (Ken) told dispatch that he still (had) his gun in his hand, and that there had been a fight over the previous weekend over a woman,” the warrant states. “Ken advised dispatch that the woman was still in his house.”
The dispatcher then could hear Reiss talking to someone – saying “by the car, get down” and “get behind the car right now, don’t worry about that.”
Around that time other 911 calls began rolling in, neighbors reporting hearing a man and woman yelling between the sound of gunshots.
Within minutes, an officer arrived and said someone was running south on Princeton from Garfield and someone was fleeing “who was bleeding and firing shots.”
When officers arrived, they didn’t know who was firing. They saw Reiss running – and believed he was one of the “described persons who were breaking into the caller’s house.”
“Additional shots were fired by this male subject toward officers. In response to being shot at, the officers returned fire,” the warrant states. Reiss was taken to the hospital where he died.
Police found no one inside Reiss’ home and no one was found injured in the area, but there were bullet holes in the door, window and casings outside the home.
Kat Schroeder, a longtime friend of Reiss, said he was not the kind of person to shoot at police.
“I’ve never known him to carry a gun. We had lengthy conversations about violence and society and police – he was not a violent person, and would not jump to violence in any situation,” she said. “I watched him handle violent situations with a cool head.”
Schroeder said police, whom Reiss called for protection, need to be held accountable for his death.
She said Reiss, who she met as a patron at Joe’s in 2010 and quickly befriended, was more than just “a fixture” at the bar. She said the part-owner “worked his (expletive) off” to keep the bar open and personally ran receipts every night in the upstairs office.
“He did more there than anyone to keep it afloat,” Schroeder said.
As a friend, she said Reiss was an incredibly kind man who was extremely well-read, loved heavy metal and valued intelligence.
“Ken could compare and contrast books I had never even heard of,” she said. “I remember sitting with him for hours, discussing everything from the intricacies of American history, to what he wanted in a girlfriend, to psychology and the impact of Brexit.”
Schroeder said Reiss always had a smile and a hug to give, no matter how bad a day he was having. More than anything, she will miss that smile at the end of the bar.
“He was endlessly positive,” she said.