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The family of a man shot and killed by an Albuquerque Police Department officer last year filed a lawsuit alleging the officer used excessive force while responding to a mental health emergency.
Juan James Cordova, 51, was fatally shot while he brandished a handgun in the driveway of his house in Ventana Ranch in 2021. Police said officer Bryce Willsey shot Cordova once in the chest during a standoff with officers.
The suit alleges that Cordova was “obviously suffering from a mental health crisis” and that “Willsey’s decision to use deadly force against (Cordova) was intentional, reckless and negligent.”
The suit was filed July 14 in 2nd Judicial District Court against Willsey and the city of Albuquerque. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
John D’Amato, a police union lawyer representing Willsey, said Friday he and Willsey declined to comment about the lawsuit.
In a news release issued after the shooting, APD said Willsey felt lives were in danger and he had to act.
“Officer Willsey said he saw Cordova point the gun in the direction of the officers to the north and then the officers to the west,” APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos wrote in the news release. “At this time, Officer Willsey said he believed the officers, along with the residents, were in danger and he fired his rifle one time.”
The fatal confrontation began after Cordova’s girlfriend called 911 at 9:50 p.m. on April 16, 2021, and reported that Cordova had fired one round from a handgun inside his house in the 10000 block of Coyote Canyon NW. The suit contends Cordova was having “a depressive episode.”
Police arrived at 10:43 p.m., beginning a 30-minute standoff outside the house. Willsey arrived at the scene at 10:58 p.m. and took up position behind a vehicle in a neighbor’s driveway, the suit said.
A police lapel camera and home security video showed Cordova standing next to his vehicle in the driveway, swearing and yelling at police to shoot him while officers repeatedly ordered him to put down his weapon and surrender.
At 11:09 p.m., another officer suggested Willsey and other officers “move up” to a closer position, but Willsey replied, “Negative. Hold it. I have an angle,” according to the suit.
Shortly before 11:15 p.m., Cordova said “I have a .45 911,” apparently in reference to his handgun, and shouted, “shoot, shoot,” the suit said. Cordova lowered his right arm, then raised it slightly to a 45-degree angle, it said.
A moment later, Willsey fatally shot Cordova, the suit said.
Willsey, who joined APD in 2015, was involved in three previous incidents in which APD officers fatally shot people.
He was one of four officers who shot Daniel Saavedra Arrola in January 2018. He was one of five officers who shot Jason Scott Perez in December 2019. And he was one of two officers who shot Orlando Abeyta in January 2020.