CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified who gave Sherrill medical attention before he was sent to UNM Hospital.
Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal
Shaine Sherrill, who told police last year that he wanted to be shot by police, stared down officers Sunday afternoon, raised his arms to eye level and pointed what to officers looked like a gun.
Sherrill, 34, did not comply with an officer’s commands to put his hands on his head, and he was shot multiple times within seconds of the officer arriving on scene, APD interim chief Allen Banks said at a news conference Thursday. Officers bandaged Sherrill’s gunshot wounds and placed a tourniquet on his leg before sending him to the University of New Mexico Hospital in critical condition.
The suspect, however, did not have a gun. Instead, Banks said, Sherrill was pointing either a silver metallic brake pad or a long-handled knife at officers to “simulate a gun,” when three APD officers shot him.
Banks said the brake pad was found in the parking lot near Wyoming and Northeastern, where the shooting occurred. A large folding knife with a thick black handle was also found “next to the suspect’s hands,” an APD spokeswoman said later. Banks said it’s not clear whether Sherrill was wielding the brake pad, the knife, or both items when officers shot him.
Banks said responding officers knew before the shooting that Sherrill had said he was suicidal as recently as Thanksgiving Day and that he had told officers in a domestic violence call last year that he wanted to be shot by police.
Although one of the responding officers was trained in crisis intervention, Banks said in a later interview that there was no time for that in this case.
Sherrill’s criminal history goes back to 1995 and includes domestic violence, property crimes and failure to appear, Banks said during the news conference.
Police said Sherrill was shot multiple times, but the exact number has not been determined. They have not said how many shots officers fired.
Banks said the brake pad will be tested for Sherrill’s DNA to determine if he was wielding it at police.
The chief said “numerous” witnesses told officers that Sherrill pulled a gun from his waistband and pointed it at officers and that all the officers on scene thought the suspect was wielding a handgun. Also, Banks said, a woman who claimed to have witnessed the shooting emailed police after the fact, saying she saw Sherrill pull out a gun and even fire before officers returned fire.
The chief said officers fired because Sherrill made an “overt and deliberate” action by pointing the item or items at them.
“It has not been determined if Sherrill was holding both objects at the officers simulating a firearm. We know he was pointing at least one of those objects at the officers during this incident,” Banks said. “He made the overt and deliberate action showing that he had something in his hands (that) simulated a gun and pointed it at the officers.”
Banks did not have any information on Sherrill’s current condition.
Pointed at police
Police arrived on the 1400 block of Virginia St. NE around 2 p.m. Sunday in response to a domestic disturbance call, Banks said. A woman had called police to report that Sherrill, whom she identified by name, was slamming his backpack into her car.
Police did not find Sherrill at that scene, but one of the responding officers made contact with him while driving near Wyoming and Northeastern. Sherrill then crossed the street and talked to a witness on a bicycle. The witness later told police that Sherrill saw the police arrive and said he didn’t want to go back to jail.
Officer Luke McPeek stopped his police cruiser and got out of his vehicle. That’s when Sherrill pulled an item out of his pocket or waistband and pointed it at the officer, Banks said. McPeek radioed in that Sherrill had a gun, retreated toward his vehicle and shouted at Sherrill to put his hands on his head, Banks said.
Sherrill did not comply with the officer’s commands, Banks said, and that’s when McPeek fired at him. By then, officers David Muñoz, who joined APD in April 2012, and Jim Edison, who joined in 2007, also had arrived at the scene. They also fired at Sherrill.
The shooting is McPeek’s second in his 16 months at the department. Banks said McPeek is one of the officers who fired at Christopher Chase during a massive police chase in late October, when Chase stole a police vehicle and fired a semiautomatic rifle, targeting officers and wounding four. Chase was killed near Fourth and Montano.
At the news conference, Banks showed two still images from officer Edison’s lapel camera video taken during Sunday’s shooting. Banks pointed to Sherrill, who was standing with his feet shoulder length apart and pointing an object at Edison. All three officers shot at Sherrill, and all three captured the shooting on lapel camera video.
None of those videos has been released.
No time for intervention
Because officers got Sherrill’s name from the initial 911 caller, police were able to refer that information to the APD Real-Time Crime Center, an $800,000 tool unveiled in March that is designed to improve officers’ “situational awareness” in rapidly escalating situations.
“Our primary mission in opening this center is to reduce the number of deadly force encounters our officers are involved in and to help keep them and the public safe by providing them all of the information they need,” then-APD chief Ray Schultz said when the center went live.
Officers who responded to the Sunday disturbance were informed about the suicide threat and his previous statement about wanting to be shot by police, Banks said during the news conference.
Banks said in a phone interview later Thursday that officer Edison was certified in crisis intervention, but that the situation unfolded too rapidly for him or any crisis-intervention-trained officer to try and slow things down.
“There wasn’t any time for intervention,” Banks said. “It happened within five seconds or so.”