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OMI: Bar owner killed by police had meth in his system

Kenneth Reiss (Courtesy of friends)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The autopsy of a well-known Nob Hill bar owner found there were high levels of methamphetamine in his system when he was shot multiple times by Albuquerque police in August after reporting a break-in at his home.

Officers said they thought Kenneth Reiss was a burglar when he fired at them from behind a car on Aug. 11.

Police returned fire, leaving the 50-year-old screaming on the sidewalk before one of them fired again – saying Reiss’ hand was still near the pistol.

The narrative enraged countless people who knew Reiss from his decades tending bar at Joe’s, a mainstay of the university area.

According to an autopsy released Thursday, the medical examiner found 1,900 nanograms per milliliter of meth in Reiss’ system. Generally speaking, levels of 600 ng/ml have been linked to violent or irrational behavior.

Traces of marijuana were also found in his system.

The report states Reiss had been shot three times in the legs and once in the neck, a bullet that fractured his spine and proved fatal.

One bullet went through a phone in his pocket, which still had the 911 operator on the line. A pair of brass knuckles was found on his body.

The family’s attorney, Rachel Higgins, disputed the department’s claims that Reiss fired at officers first and was reaching for his gun before the second, fatal, volley of gunfire.

“The family’s investigation is ongoing. Mr. Reiss’ family and friends continue to grieve his loss and will continue in the search for answers,” she said, adding that it is unclear if police are looking for “the criminals who broke into Mr. Reiss’ home, and began this catastrophic and tragic chain of events.”

Albuquerque police did not respond to questions about whether they are investigating the break-in.

Reiss called 911 around 12:20 a.m. and said he had shot at two armed men who broke into his home in the 2700 block of Garfield SE, near Girard.

Responding officers heard a gunshot and saw a man running from the scene. Police saw bullet holes in Reiss’ home and shell casings on the ground.

Investigators said police believed they were following a burglar when they came across Reiss hiding behind a car. Police said Reiss fired a pistol once over the car hood and three officers shot back.

The officers ordered Reiss to drop the gun, although video shows he was no longer holding it, before one of them fired again, killing Reiss.

Police said a casing found near Reiss and the casings around his apartment matched the pistol he had on him and investigators found no evidence of a home invasion.

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