Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
The Albuquerque Police Department released details of its preliminary investigation into two recent shootings by officers – one in which a man with a history of mental health issues was shot and killed as he threw a knife at the officers and another in which a man was shot in the back as he fled a traffic stop.
At a news conference Friday afternoon, acting Lt. Hollie Anderson of the Violent Crimes Section laid out the circumstances behind the shooting of 40-year-old Claude Trivino on Feb. 20 and 56-year-old William “Bill” Grant on March 7. Grant survived, was treated at the hospital and booked into the Sandoval County Detention Center.
Anderson said over the next several months the Multi Agency Task Force and Internal Affairs will continue to investigate and analyze the incidents and will interview any new witnesses who come forward.
“After the investigation is complete our force investigation section will refer their findings to the force review board,” she said. “The board will then evaluate the evidence to determine whether the officers adequately identified themselves, the use of their tactics in drawing and exhibiting of a weapon and use of deadly force in this instance, met the highest standard of the expectations of the Albuquerque Police officers.”
Mental health issues
The first incident unfolded on a Saturday afternoon after a police officer spotted Trivino – of Hernandez, NM – walking in the middle of San Mateo near Copper NE. Two drivers called 911 to report him as well.
At about 3:15, officers Jarrod Potter and Christian Cordova responded to the scene. Video provided by APD shows the officers following Trivino telling him to stop walking in traffic or he’s going to get tased. He continues to walk away.
Suddenly, Trivino turns and runs toward the officers raising what later turned out to be a Leatherman multi-tool with a blade extended.
“Officer Cordova initially fires his Taser at Claude, which had no effect,” Anderson said. “Officer Cordova retreats to gain distance from Claude. Officer Potter yells for Claude to stop and drop the knife. He then turns and runs toward Officer Potter with his arm raised and throws the blade at the officer. Officer Potter and Cordova both discharge their handguns, striking Claude.”
Trivino was taken to the hospital, where he died.
Anderson showed a photo of Potter’s arm, which had a laceration from the multi-tool. Both Potter and Cordova were put on administrative leave, which is standard, after the shooting and have since returned to their assignments in the Southeast Area Command.
Potter has been with APD since 2020 and Cordova has been with APD since 2015. Neither had been involved in any other shootings. A spokesman did not provide their photos Friday afternoon.
Trivino’s ex-wife declined to comment to the Journal, and other family members did not respond to requests for interviews.
However, a GoFundMe site created to help his family pay for funeral expenses says he was shot “minutes after trying to seek help for his mental issues, two blocks away from the VA hospital.”
“(Trivino) was a proud Native-American enrolled in Cochiti Pueblo and a Veteran US Army Paratrooper where he proudly served in the 1/509 Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) ‘Man in the Door,’ ” the site says. “He was stationed at Fort Polk, LA as an opposing forces operator trained in conventional and guerilla warfare tactics of all enemies of the United States. He was a proud and loving husband, Father of three of the worlds greatest kids, and brother to a strong military family.”
Anderson displayed a safety bulletin put out for law enforcement in Rio Arriba County that said Trivino was a “danger to himself and others” and “had been diagnosed with mental health concerns, and he displayed signs and symptoms that were consistent with paranoia.”
A criminal complaint charging Trivino with resisting, evading or obstructing an officer mentions that deputies were trying to take him into custody for an emergency mandatory psychiatric evaluation ordered by a doctor with Veterans Affairs.
Police have said the officers didn’t know about the safety bulletin or who Trivino was when they encountered him.
But police Chief Harold Medina said the shooting highlighted the need for more services for those with mental health issues.
“I think that we have to be able to get to the point where we’re able to keep individuals safely in custody for these types of issues to overcome their struggles,” Medina said.
“I think additional funding to help beef up our mental health system is key for us to avoid these tragedies within the communities across the state of New Mexico for individuals with mental health crises.”
In response to questions about whether the officers’ actions escalated the situation, Medina said they need to let the administrative investigation take its course.
“It will be reviewed by the force review board who will make recommendations where the officers’ actions were appropriate or inappropriate,” he said.
No charges filed
The second incident unfolded a little before 10 p.m. March 7 when officer Isaac Aragon spotted a blue van on Montaño near Culture NE. Aragon told investigators the van slowed down and then swerved into his lane, causing him to have to get out of the way to avoid a collision.
Aragon pulled the van over. An older man was driving and an older woman was in the passenger seat.
“The driver produced a driver’s license and officer Aragon observed the picture on the license that did not match the male driver,” Anderson said. “The male driver appeared to be in his 50s and the date of birth on the license would make him 35 years old.”
When questioned, the driver produced a concealed carry permit with the same name.
Anderson said another officer contacted the man whose name was on the permit and license and he said he had lost his wallet in December.
Aragon went back to the van and he and another officer told the driver – who later turned out to be Grant – to get out. Instead, he said, Grant started the engine and “displayed a firearm.”
“Officer Aragon stated he was afraid he was going to get shot,” Anderson said. “As the van drove off officer Aragon discharged five times from his nine millimeter handgun.”
Video shows Aragon firing as the van speeds away. The van has still not been found.
Early the next morning, Rio Rancho Police were called to a gas station on Unser because Grant and his passenger were there and were reporting that Grant had been shot. The officers took him to the hospital.
He was booked into the Sandoval County Detention Center on an unrelated warrant and has not yet been charged with any crime relating to the shooting.
Aragon was put on administrative leave and has since returned to the field. He has been with APD since 2018 and has not been involved in any other shootings.
APD officers are generally prohibited from shooting at a motor vehicle unless it is a direct danger to themselves or others or other circumstances warrant it.
In response to questions about whether there are concerns about Aragon shooting at the van as it fled, Medina said: “I can say right off the bat, yes, there’s going to be concerns. But before we make any final determinations or judgments, we need our administrative investigation to take its course.”