Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico is calling for an independent investigation into a fatal shooting by a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy last month.
BCSO held a news conference and released bodyworn camera video of the incident Tuesday. Video from Deputy Ronald Perez shows him ordering 18-year-old Elijah Riche to put his gun down and then – when he didn’t drop the gun and continued to run – shoot him. Riche can be seen holding an AR-15 pistol loosely at his side and then pointing toward the sky. He was running down the street in the direction of two other deputies, who were in their cruisers.
Riche was taken to the hospital, where he died.
The video prompted the ACLU to call for the state Attorney General’s Office to “conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident so that Riche’s family and community have an unbiased accounting of his tragic death.”
“The body-camera footage of the incident that led to Elijah Riche’s death appears to show BCSO Deputy Ronald Perez shooting Riche in the back,” Barron Jones, senior policy strategist at the ACLU, said in a statement. “While Riche is in possession of a gun, he does not appear to be holding it in a threatening manner or poised to fire.”
Jones asked for the agency to release the bodyworn camera footage from the two deputies who Riche was running toward. The Journal had received their videos Tuesday, but had not published them with the previous story since the shooting cannot be seen.
The videos show the deputies were in their cruisers at the time of the shooting.
A BCSO spokeswoman did not respond to questions about whether there were other videos showing the shooting or whether the agency would be open to an independent investigation.
In response to a question about whether the Attorney General’s Office will conduct an investigation, a spokeswoman said Hector Balderas’ office has been asking the legislature to make it so it can regularly investigate shootings by law enforcement.
“Currently the law provides that the District Attorney’s office has primary jurisdiction to review officer-involved shootings, although we are willing to provide assistance upon request,” said spokeswoman Jerri Mares in a statement. “The Attorney General’s office has repeatedly requested funding and the proper statutory changes from the legislature to thoroughly investigate and prosecute officer-involved shootings.”
The Nov. 26 incident was the second fatal shooting by BCSO this year. Tuesday night deputies shot and killed another person during a “physical altercation” in the course of a domestic violence call.
Albuquerque Police Department officers have shot nine people this year, four of whom were killed.
New Mexico has the highest rate of fatal shootings by police in the country, according to a Washington Post database. One hundred and thirty-eight people – 66 people per million – were killed by police since 2015.
“This fatal shooting, along with other recent officer-involved shootings, speaks to the need for statewide legislation for police use of force,” Jones said. “New Mexico currently ranks number one in the nation for people killed by police, making clear that our current laws governing use of force are failing to protect communities.”