ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Police Chief Ray Schultz on Wednesday said the man shot by city SWAT officers late Tuesday had a long criminal history, including 17 felony arrests, and had ties to a white supremacist gang.
The chief gave new details about the chaotic scene in a crowded section of Northeast Albuquerque that resulted in APD’s 28th officer-involved shooting since 2010. It was the department’s first fatal shooting in nearly a year.
Schultz said 41-year-old Parrish Clayton Denison, who was armed with a loaded silver .22 caliber pistol, was killed after a lengthy chase near Louisiana and Menaul NE.
Denison had fled on foot after officers arrived at a shop on Menaul west of Louisiana around 6:30 p.m., following a call from the shop owner who said a woman had tried to sell some stolen musical instruments in the store, Schultz said.
Denison, who pointed his pistol at an APD sergeant several times, ran along a rooftop in the area while being chased by police, Schultz said. After a “game of cat and mouse” that lasted over an hour, Denison gave officers the slip, the chief said.
An APD helicopter later spotted him in some bushes near a Chili’s restaurant, and police flushed him out with an armored vehicle and a flash grenade shortly after 8 p.m.
Denison tried to get into a cafe in the same complex as the Chili’s restaurant and near the Sheraton Uptown by kicking a glass window, but he “bounced off” and landed on his knees, facing officers, Schultz said. That’s when two of the officers fired shots, striking Denison three or four times in the chest and stomach. He was taken to an area hospital, where he later died.
Still under investigation, the chief said in an email to the Journal, is what Denison was doing with the gun at the time he was shot.
“Obviously, this was a very dangerous situation,” Schultz said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon. “There were dozens of people sequestered” in local businesses that were locked down during the two-hour incident, and had Denison “had the ability to enter (any) of those businesses, it would have been a much more dangerous situation.”
Schultz said that several moments before Denison was shot, another SWAT officer accidentally fired his weapon. That shot did not strike Denison, the chief said.
All three officers are on paid leave, as officers from APD and other agencies begin a criminal investigation of the shooting and the department’s Internal Affairs division conducts a separate investigation, he said. That is standard procedure.
The chief would only provide the officers’ last names: Perdue, Aragon and Sedler. He said he was withholding their first names because there is still a suspect involved in an alleged case of trying to sell stolen goods that preceded the shooting, and because the man who was shot has “strong ties to criminal gang activity to include prison gangs and white supremacy.”
Schultz said Denison had felony warrants out for his arrest at the time of the shooting.
A search of online New Mexico court records showed three felony convictions for Denison in New Mexico. The convictions date from 1992, 1998 and 2001 and include larceny over $2,500, drug trafficking and burglary. The records also show four felony arrests that did not result in convictions.
Schultz said additional felony arrests and convictions could have come from other jurisdictions, such as New York or Colorado.
The chief said Denison had tattoos that appeared to link him to gangs, but he would not elaborate on the gang ties because of the ongoing investigation.
At least twice before in recent years, APD has described men shot by city police as members of white supremacist gangs after the fact. In the aftermath of the first of those shootings, an APD investigation ensued into an alleged “Aryan Brotherhood cell” operating in Albuquerque. The investigation included a department-wide warning that there would be retaliation from the notorious prison gang. APD was never able to confirm information about the man shot by an officer being a member of the gang, which had been provided by a jailhouse informant.
Each of the officers involved in Tuesday night’s shooting is an APD veteran. Aragon has been with the department 12 years, Sedler has been with APD 16 years, and Perdue has been on the force 18 years.
Perdue and Sedler have each been involved in at least one previous shooting. Both were on the SWAT team at the time of those shootings.
Tuesday’s shooting took place as attorneys and investigators from the U.S. Department of Justice are in Albuquerque for a site visit as part of their massive civil rights probe of APD, which began in November.
APD officers have shot at 28 men since 2010, striking 25 and killing 18. The shootings are a particular area of focus for Justice Department investigators, who are conducting a top-to-bottom review of the way APD uses and investigates force.
The incident on Tuesday marked the first APD shooting since Dec. 17, when an officer fired two shots at a vehicle being driven by a 20-year-old man who had escaped a SWAT perimeter. The man was not struck.
The last time someone was struck during a police shooting was Aug. 6, when an APD sergeant shot a man during an undercover APD drug sting gone bad. The man survived.
And the department’s last fatal shooting was nearly a year ago — on March 21, 2012, when another of the department’s SWAT officers shot a man in a field near Grants after a lengthy vehicle pursuit that began in Albuquerque.
Schultz said during the news conference that much of Tuesday evening’s chaos was captured on video — from APD’s helicopter, business surveillance cameras in the area and officers’ lapel-mounted cameras.
The chief showed still images from some of the videos and played recordings of police radio conversations from various points in the incident as it unfolded.
Detailed outline of confrontation
During a news conference Wednesday, Police Chief Ray Schultz described the scene that unfolded Tuesday evening near Menaul and Louisiana NE that ended with a man fatally shot by APD SWAT officers.
♦ 6:11 p.m. — Employees at Music Go Round, which sits in a strip mall in the 7000 block of Menaul NE, call police to report that a woman was trying to sell a stolen bass guitar and banjo. The woman was with two men, one of whom turned out to be 41-year-old Parrish Clayton Denison.
♦ 6:30 p.m. — An APD sergeant arrives on scene and sees two men sitting in a black Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck with a damaged rear end and a turquoise New Mexico license plate. The sergeant tries to block the vehicle’s escape but is unable to do so. Denison flees on foot while the driver escapes in the truck. The driver is still at large, and police are seeking the public’s help in finding him.
♦ Denison runs west while the sergeant pursues him in his vehicle. He then turns and runs east toward the end of the strip mall. The sergeant gets out of his vehicle and begins a foot pursuit, as Denison jumps from a fence onto the roof of the strip mall. The officer calls for backup.
♦ Denison comes to the corner of the roof, sees the sergeant and pulls out a silver .22 caliber handgun, which he points at the sergeant. The sergeant runs for cover, and Denison runs toward the other side of the roof.
♦ Denison jumps off the roof, and the sergeant confronts him on the ground. He points the gun at the officer again, but the officer chooses not to fire out of concern for bystanders. After darting across Menaul, dodging traffic, Denison runs north on Mesilla Street NE, then west into an alley.
♦ After Denison gives officers the slip, police request air support, and the APD helicopter arrives. Police supervisors decide to elevate their response, establishing a perimeter and locking down area businesses, including an area hotel and restaurant with customers still inside. The K-9 unit is called in to search the area and, eventually, the SWAT team takes over the scene.
♦ The helicopter, through thermal imaging, finds Denison hiding under a hedge on the south end of an office building, which is east of the Sheraton Uptown hotel.
♦ Police flush Denison out with an armored vehicle and a flash grenade. He sees officers approaching and runs north on Chama Street NE, then turns west toward the hotel and Chili’s restaurant where officers are stationed.
♦ Denison sprints toward a cafe in the same complex as the restaurant and leaps with his foot outstretched to try to break through a window.
♦ 8:11 p.m. — Still armed with the handgun, Denison falls to his knees facing officers. Officers shoot at him. He’s struck three to four times in the chest and stomach.
♦ Officers throw another flash bang toward Denison in an attempt to get the man to comply with commands to drop the gun and to see whether he could still potentially fire at them. He doesn’t move.
♦ Officers release a police dog on Denison. The dog bites Denison and holds him down, but still Denison does not move.
♦ SWAT officers then make a final approach and find that Denison’s finger is still on the trigger. They determine he was injured and make way for paramedics.
♦ Denison later dies at the hospital.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal
– Visit APD Under Fire for in-depth coverage of the DOJ’s investigation into APD.