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Live Coverage: Jury gets APD shooting case

APD attorney Kathy Levy holds up the knife Kenneth Ellis III handed over to officers the day he was shot. (Jeff Proctor/Journal)

APD attorney Kathy Levy holds up the knife Kenneth Ellis III handed over to officers the day he was shot. (Jeff Proctor/Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Journal reporter Jeff Proctor is in the courtroom at the Ellis trial. He will be live tweeting and filing updates on this page.

Read Proctor’s complete stories from earlier days in the trial:
Day 1: Trial opens in APD shooting death
Day 2: Expert questions officer’s hiring
Day 3: Officer Explains Fatal Shooting
Day 4: APD officer ‘consciously’ shot Ellis
Day 5: Full story below

2 p.m.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Shannon Kennedy told jurors this morning that APD officers testifying in a civil court trial into a 2010 police shooting “have told you many lies.”

“The plaintiffs have shown you the truth,” Kennedy added during her closing argument, which she made on the sixth day of a trial that’s focused on APD Detective Brett Lampiris-Tremba’s fatal shooting of Kenneth Ellis III, an Iraq war veteran who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and pointing a gun at his own head during a nine-minute encounter with police.

Reiterating her opening argument from last week, Kennedy summarized the Ellis family’s claims — which the jury will now decide — as follows: who besides Lampiris-Tremba is responsible for Ellis’ death; what is the price of the 25-year-old’s life; and should Lampiris-Tremba be punished as a deterrent to future unlawful police shootings.

In most police shooting civil cases, whether an officer was following the U.S. Constitution when he or she pulled the trigger is primary question to be answered.

But in this case, state District Judge Shannon Bacon that an officer making objectively reasonable decisions wouldn’t have shot Ellis — that as a matter of law, Lampiris-Tremba used excessive force.

In her closing argument, Deputy City Attorney Kathy Levy repeated Lampiris-Tremba’s testimony, saying he made “the best decision he could” during a highly dangerous situation in front of an open-for-business convenience store at a busy Northeast Albuquerque intersection. She added that Lampiris-Tremba “accepts and understands the court’s decision” that the shooting was unlawful.

The veteran detective “will live knowing that the decision he made … was the wrong one,” Levy said, arguing against an award from the jury of punitive damages. “That is a lifetime punishment.”

Levy argued that APD officer Byron “Trey” Economidy’s stop of Ellis vehicle as part of an auto theft investigation — which preceded the shooting — was perfectly legal.

One of the plaintiffs’ claims is that Economidy violated Ellis’ Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure when he pinned Ellis’ Corvette into a parking space in front of the 7-Eleven at Constitution and Eubank NE.

During rebuttal argument today, Frances Carpenter, another of the Ellises’ attorneys, told jurors that both Economidy and Lampiris-Tremba had testified that police didn’t have probable cause to stop Ellis.

“That’s an easy one for you guys,” she told the jury.

Among the plaintiffs’ other claims is that the city of Albuquerque was negligent in hiring and supervising Lampiris-Tremba and in keeping him on the force after what the family’s expert on police practices called a series of incidents that should’ve kept him from being a police officer and, after he was hired in 1997, should’ve gotten led to his termination.

Arguing against those claims, Levy said Lampiris-Tremba “bared his soul” during the hiring process in 1997. It had been the second time he tried to become an Albuquerque cop after being rejected in 1992.

Among the disclosures Lampiris-Tremba made in 1997 was that he had used a fake ID to buy alcohol while he was in the Marines. Another was that he had lied on his 1992 application about previous marijuana use.

Referring to testimony from the plaintiffs’ expert, Levy said: “He would have you believe that the mistakes of your youth should hurt you forever. That is not the philosophy of the Albuquerque Police Department.”

Levy also addressed discrepancies in statements Lampiris-Tremba had given investigators about why he shot Ellis — primarily that he had never mentioned a step Ellis allegedly took toward another officer until the civil proceedings.

Levy brushed the discrepancies off, saying Lampiris-Tremba had been emotionally distraught when he gave the first statement the day after the shooting.

He gave the second statement — and also left out the step toward an officer on that occasion — nearly a year later.

In her rebuttal, Carpenter said the changing stories for why Lampiris-Tremba pulled the trigger constituted further evidence of his inability to tell the truth.

“Once a liar, always a liar,” she said. “And with Brett Lampiris-Tremba, we are that time and time and time again … Judgment is the key to this case, and Brett Lampiris-Tremba has never exercised good judgment.”

Carpenter closed by admonishing the jury as to the weight of the case.

“In this country, cases have shaped the community..This is one of those cases. This is that case,” she said.

The jury began deliberating around 1 p.m.

I’m standing by at the courthouse for word on when they return with their decisions.


10 a.m.
The sixth day of a civil court trial in a 2010 APD shooting began with a third win for the city of Albuquerque this morning when state District Judge Shannon Bacon threw out the plaintiffs’ claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The claim was one of several filed in a lawsuit by the family of Kenneth Ellis III, who was fatally shot by APD Detective Brett Lampiris-Tremba in January 2010.

Ellis was an Iraq war veteran who was severely wounded during the war and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Attorneys for the Ellis family and for the city are hashing out final details on jury instructions with Bacon before closing statements in the case this morning.
This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal on 3/14/13

The city of Albuquerque scored two victories Wednesday in the ongoing civil court trial into a 2010 fatal police shooting.

The first came when plaintiffs’ attorneys abandoned their pursuit of punitive damages against the officer who pinned the vehicle driven by Kenneth Ellis III into a Northeast Albuquerque parking lot before another officer, Brett Lampiris-Tremba, shot Ellis.

The second win came when state District Judge Shannon Bacon granted a motion by the city to dismiss a claim that the Albuquerque Police Department was negligent in the way it trained Lampiris-Tremba.

An enormous amount of testimony during the trial, which began last week, has been about the way APD trains its officers to deal with people in crisis. Two more police officers, including the one who stood closest to Ellis when he was shot, testified about APD training on Wednesday.

Bacon’s dismissal of the training claim came after the judge had dealt a significant blow to the city. Prior to the beginning of the trial, she ruled that the shooting was unlawful — that an objectively reasonable officer wouldn’t have fired at Ellis. The jury will decide at the conclusion of trial, which is expected to end later this week, a number of questions, including how much money in damages the city must pay Ellis’ 7-year-old son.

After the Ellis family’s final witness finished testifying on Wednesday, Deputy City Attorney Kathy Levy made several other motions. Levy sought first to have Bacon reconsider her ruling that the shooting was unlawful. Bacon denied that motion.

The judge also denied Levy’s motions to dismiss the plaintiffs’ other claims:

♦ That the city was negligent in hiring and supervising Lampiris-Tremba and keeping him on the force after a series of what a plaintiffs’ expert on police practices called fireable offenses.

♦ That officer Byron “Trey” Economidy’s stop of Ellis’ vehicle was unlawful under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

♦ That the jury should be allowed to consider punitive damages against Lampiris-Tremba.

Bacon was still deciding Wednesday afternoon on Levy’s motion to dismiss claims that Lampiris-Tremba violated Ellis’ rights to equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and his rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Ellis was a veteran of the Iraq War and suffered from post-traumatic stress-disorder.

The trial is scheduled to resume today with closing statements. Bacon told jurors that they would have the case at some point today.

A common theme in the trial — which began with a lawsuit against Lampiris-Tremba, Economidy and the city — has been that city police are trained that “distance buys you time” and “time is on your side” during volatile situations.

On Wednesday, Detective Gerald Roach, who was less than 10 feet from Ellis when he was shot, testified that APD officers are taught in the police academy and during ongoing training the “21-foot rule.” That’s the distance, Roach testified, that an armed subject can close in the two seconds it takes an officer to respond with his or her own weapon.

Earlier in the trial, Lampiris-Tremba testified that he was 10 to 15 feet from Ellis when he shot him.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal