Frank Baty grew up in Albuquerque, the middle son of three, playing football as an all-state linebacker and serving as the president of the student senate in high school.
After graduation he got a scholarship to attend the University of Washington and lived outside of Seattle for several years, before falling on hard times — becoming homeless and disabled. He eventually returned to New Mexico to live with his parents, his brother told the Journal.
In June, early one morning, police say two officers shot and killed 58-year-old Baty after he pulled up next to them in his car Downtown and pointed a gun at them. The gun turned out to be an airsoft gun, which often looks like a traditional gun but shoots nonlethal, plastic bullets.
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said at the time he thought it could be a case of “an individual using officers as a means to take their own life.”
JC Baty, who retired from the Army and now lives in Florida, said the last time his parents saw his younger brother was several hours before he was killed and they didn’t suspect anything was amiss.
“He wasn’t in a spastic mode or anything like that. … If he was my dad would have calmed him down or something but they didn’t see anything wrong with him,” JC Baty said. “So I don’t know. It’s just very bizarre.”
The Albuquerque Police Department typically holds a media briefing several weeks after an officer shoots someone to give an explanation about what the preliminary investigation found. In this case, lapel camera video of the June 19 shooting was released to the Journal last month without a briefing.
Gilbert Gallegos, an APD spokesman, said the records office released lapel camera videos before the department was prepared.
“We decided to send out a summary of the incident at that point to ensure news media outlets had context for the video from the (on body recording device),” Gallegos said. “Since the video and summary were publicly released, we chose not to hold a formal media briefing.”
The videos show Frank Baty drive up to three officers around 3:30 a.m. as they left an unrelated call at the Hotel Andaluz near Second and Copper NW. The first 30 seconds elapsed without sound — that’s because when an officer turns on their camera the previous 30 seconds are captured without audio. The officers can be seen pulling out their guns and taking shelter behind their cruisers. The cameras are then obstructed by the vehicles.
Then the officer can be heard yelling for Frank Baty to “drop the gun” and shouting “I don’t want to have to shoot you, man.”
“No,” Frank Baty responded repeatedly.
Then a volley of shots rings out. Officers Tristen Garcia and Justin Sison, both with the Valley Area Command, fired at least 10 rounds between them.
In interviews with the detectives, the officers said Frank Baty “lowered the gun and pointed it in the direction of the officers” so they shot at him, Gallegos said.
More than eight minutes later — after giving commands and waiting for the ambulance to arrive — the officers approached Frank Baty’s car and began to remove him from the driver’s seat. He still had a pulse and the officers attempted to provide emergency medical care before Albuquerque Fire Rescue arrived to take him away in an ambulance.
Frank Baty died at the hospital.
Both officers, Garcia and Sison, were hired by APD in March 2021 and neither had been involved in a shooting before, Gallegos said. He said they have both returned to their positions.
All shootings by law enforcement in Bernalillo County are investigated by a Multi-Agency Task Force. The investigation is ongoing, Gallegos said.
The shooting was the eighth of 12 by APD officers so far this year. Officers have killed seven people, including Frank Baty, and injured one. In the remaining four cases they did not hit anyone but in one of those cases the person killed himself right before the officer fired.
Months after Frank Baty’s death, his family still has questions and wonders if the tragedy could have been prevented. The family has been requesting documents and trying to learn more about what happened.
When JC Baty came to town for the funeral, he took photos of his brother’s car with 10 bullet holes in it.
He said his brother’s disability meant he couldn’t have gotten out of the car without a walker.
“There was no trying to de-escalate,” he said. “I don’t know. It just could have been done better and differently. To me it didn’t have to escalate so fast and so tragically.”