Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Speaking publicly for the first time, Sgt. Sean Kenny recounted the morning he was shot, squarely in the bulletproof vest, a little more than a month ago.
The 22-year veteran of the Albuquerque Police Department also blamed the court-mandated reform effort for the high number of officers leaving the force, saying he’s not opposed to reform, but “it’s got to be smart. It’s got to be intelligent. It’s got to be workable.”
“They don’t know I’m saying this. I’m challenging everybody in this room, everybody on this list, to do better,” Kenny said. “Because everybody can – from the brand new (officer) who makes that first arrest to the governor and everybody in between. We have to do better because we are failing. Everybody’s failing. APD is failing. Everybody, we’re failing.”
Kenny and three other officers were wounded – one critically – in a shootout in the parking lot of a busy drive-thru coffee shop in Northeast Albuquerque. An armed robbery suspect, James Ramirez of Los Angeles, was also wounded and is facing federal charges. The shooting happened between sessions of the city’s Metro Crime Initiative and the mayor said Kenny asked to speak about his experience at a Tuesday news conference.
Kenny said that, on the morning of Aug. 19, he heard a call about an armed robbery that piqued his interest, but he was in the middle of doing paperwork at the Foothills Substation.
A short time later, he was asked to go to the scene because the sister of a person who was stopped had a complaint and asked to speak to a sergeant. By the time he got there, she was gone.
Then, officer Mario Verbeck called out that they had eyes on the suspects.
“So we all headed down that way,” Kenny said. “I came around the corner, and I see Mario and James Eichel running down, running down the alley … . When I saw them run down the alley, I whipped a U-turn. I’m heading southbound on Juan Tabo and I can hear the gunfire in my car over the radio. And there’s a lot of it.”
Kenny said he arrived at Dutch Bros Coffee and threw on his rifle plate carrier – basically a bulletproof vest.
“When the suspect popped up to my right, I’m in my driver’s seat. I’m not ready for this,” Kenny said. “I bailed out of the car, I watched my camera go skidding across the pavement. And the thought, literally, that goes through my mind – by now, Harry (Gunderson) and the suspect are shooting each other – is I’m going to get in trouble.”
Kenny said the gunfight lasted a minute-and-a-half to two minutes and, in the middle of it, the suspect reloaded.
“That was by far (and) away, the most terrified I’ve been in my life,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to see my wife and my son again.”
Afterward, as police arrived and started tending to the wounded, an officer noticed Kenny had been struck in the chest. “I got a little notebook. He pulls it out. It’s got a hole in it. I’m like, ‘Yeah, I was hit and I’ll be blunt. I was a little foggy from there on out.’ ”
Ramirez, Kenny said, is an example of someone who should not have been given a second and third chance.
“He knew what he was doing,” Kenny said. “One hundred percent – he had a ton of ammo, he had a ton of magazines and he was ready to go to war with somebody, whether it was us or the people that he robbed.”