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An 18-year-old who was shot by a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy late last month was holding an AR-15 pistol while running toward other deputies, officials said Tuesday.
Elijah Riche was taken to the hospital, where he died.
Deputy Ronald Perez, who shot Riche, has been with BCSO for 10 years and it was his first shooting. A sheriff’s office spokeswoman said he has returned to work from administrative leave.
The incident unfolded around 2 p.m. Nov. 26 in the North Valley.
At a Tuesday news conference, BCSO Capt. Nick Huffmyer said Perez had been dispatched to an indecent exposure call at a gas station on Edith and Montaño NW when a red Subaru swerved through the intersection and crashed head-on into a car. The Subaru driver then took off. Another deputy gave chase and the car crashed again, the second time into a chainlink fence farther down the street.
At that point, Huffmyer said, a man – later identified as Riche – got out of the car and started to run down the street before doubling back to get firearms from the car. Perez left the call he was at, arrived at the scene and followed Riche.
In security camera and bodyworn camera footage, Riche can be seen running down Nikanda Road – a dead end – away from the deputies as they shout commands. When Riche reached a fence blocking off a parking lot about half way down the street, he turned around again and jogged past Perez in his patrol car and back toward two other deputies in their cruisers at the street’s entrance.
“(Perez) then exits his patrol vehicle gives repeated commands a second time now to ‘drop the gun. Stop, get on the ground. Show me your hands’…,” Huffmyer said. “Suspect refuses to comply, and it’s at that point that the shooting takes place.”
In a bodyworn camera video, Riche can be seen some distance away from Perez with what looks like the AR-15 held loosely by his side and then pointing to the sky.
Huffmyer said he thinks “it’s pretty clear that (Perez) thought that his fellow deputies were in danger” and that Riche was “running straight at the deputies while he’s armed with the gun.”
Video shows Perez shoot Riche, who falls to the ground before sitting up and yelling, “I’m hit,” “you shot me” and “I made a bad decision,” as the deputies close in. He was taken to the hospital, where he died.
Huffmyer said in addition to the gun in Riche’s hand, there were three guns in the backpack he was holding and another gun in his car. Huffmyer said investigators are still researching where the firearms came from.
A man who answered the phone for a number associated with Riche’s family declined to speak with the Journal.
According to an obituary, Riche had recently graduated from high school, bought his first car and moved into his own apartment.
“He was so excited to start his journey as a young adult and explore everything life had to offer,” the obituary states. “Elijah was passionate about many things in life and those that knew him witnessed that passion with every word he spoke.”
Huffmyer said the incident is still under investigation by the Multi Agency Task Force made up of the Albuquerque Police Department, BCSO and New Mexico State Police and by internal affairs.
“We think that the video speaks for itself but, again, it’s not the job of our agency to determine the legality of the shooting necessarily,” he said. “Once the criminal investigation is completed by the (MATF) shoot team, that information gets turned over to the District Attorney’s Office and they’ll make that determination.”
This was the second shooting by BCSO deputies this year, both of them fatal and both where lapel camera video has been available. In February, two deputies shot and killed a man they said fired at them as they chased him through the backyard of a South Valley home.