APD fires Casaus, Moreno

APD Sgt. Adam Casaus during a preliminary hearing in district court on Tuesday April 9, 2013. (Dean Hanson/Journal)

APD Sgt. Adam Casaus during a preliminary hearing in district court on Tuesday April 9, 2013. (Dean Hanson/Journal)

Correction: An earlier version of this story failed to attribute Casaus’ alleged lack of sirens to witnesses. Casaus claims his sirens were on. The earlier version of this story also reported that Jeffrey Grubbs filed a civil lawsuit in May. Grubbs filed the lawsuit in April.

Two Albuquerque police officers were fired Friday after months-long investigations into one officer’s alleged off-duty beating of an Albuquerque man in August 2012 and another officer’s involvement in a February car crash that killed a young woman.

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In addition to his termination effective at the end of the business day Friday, Sgt. Adam Casaus also faces vehicular homicide and other felony charges after he sped through a red light in the early morning hours of Feb. 10 in his police SUV and slammed into a vehicle carrying Ashley Browder, 21, and her 19-year-old sister, Lindsay, according to court documents.

He was off duty and, according to witnesses*, did not have his siren on.

Ashley Browder, who had been drinking at a Downtown nightclub and called her sister to ask for a ride, was killed. Lindsay was seriously injured.

Casaus, who has pleaded not guilty, had been on paid leave since March 26.

In deciding to fire Casaus, Police Chief Ray Schultz said the officer had broken several department policies. He called the crash at Paseo del Norte and Eagle Ranch NW “unfortunate and tragic.”

“After completing a very comprehensive Internal Affairs Investigation and reviewing the thorough accident investigation provided by the BCSO, I came to the conclusion that Sergeant Casaus did violate several sections of the APD (standard operating procedures),” Schultz said in a statement Friday. “Our prayers … and thoughts (are) with the Browder Family.”

Schultz on Friday also fired officer Joe Moreno, who could face criminal charges for allegedly beating a man unconscious in August 2012 during an off-duty fight at a West Side Hooters restaurant.

The Browders have expressed frustration as the department failed to discipline Casaus, even as he faced criminal charges.

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“I know the family is going to be very happy about (Casaus’ termination),” Vicki Serfoss, the sisters’ grandmother, said Friday afternoon.

The Browder family this month filed a civil lawsuit against Casaus, Schultz, the city and APD that among other things seeks damages for what they call the department’s “widespread custom and practice” of unsafe driving by its officers.

Casaus’ next court date in his criminal case has not been set.

Schultz did not issue a statement explaining his reasons for firing Moreno, who was accused of beating Jeffrey Grubbs in the parking lot of a Hooters restaurant and bar in August 2012.

Police spokesman Robert Gibbs confirmed that Moreno had been fired.

Grubbs, in a civil lawsuit filed in April, accused Moreno of assaulting him.

Grubbs’ and Moreno’s account of the fight differ, with Grubbs claiming that Moreno threatened and assaulted him without provocation after the two encountered each other in the restaurant.

Moreno claimed Grubbs approached him as the officer was about to drive away from the restaurant. Grubbs walked from the front of the officer’s truck to the driver’s side with his hands up in a fighting posture, Moreno told police.

Moreno told investigators he felt threatened and punched Grubbs as the two fell to the ground.

Grubbs suffered a broken bone, a rib and a fractured face, according to police records.

Moreno was placed on paid administrative leave, but later was reassigned to a post at the Animal Welfare Department. An Internal Affairs investigation was launched last August.

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