Mary Han was a successful civil rights attorney who for decades battled over the rights of abused women, accused prostitutes and the homeless. In the close-knit Albuquerque legal community, she was known as a spitfire whose fervor was often directed at one entity in particular: The city’s troubled police department.
Now, more than two years after Han was found dead in her garage in what authorities deemed a suicide, the department is under scrutiny amid questions over whether officers mishandled the investigation into the death of their former adversary.
The state attorney general’s office is looking into the matter. It has also asked federal officials, who last year launched a civil rights probe into the department’s high number of police shootings, to look at the case.
Han’s relatives, meantime, have sued the city — along with the police chief, public safety director and more than a dozen officers and investigators — alleging shoddy police work resulted in a flawed investigation. More so, they question whether police failed to look at other explanations for the feisty and notoriously foul-mouthed attorney’s death.
“I would like to know what happened to my mother someday,” said Han’s 28-year-old daughter, Katherine, who remains steadfast in her belief that her mother did not kill herself. “To have an important person removed from their life without explanation is something no one should ever have to deal with. It’s more about peace of mind.”