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Man shot by police was not violent, psychiatrist says

ORRES: Shot to death by police in April 2011

ORRES: Shot to death by police in April 2011

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The treating psychiatrist for a man diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia testified Tuesday that he never associated patient Christopher Torres with violent tendencies in the seven or eight years he had treated Torres.

Torres was killed by Albuquerque police on April 12, 2011.

“Violence is not the nature of the disease,” Dr. Kevin Rexroad said during testimony in a wrongful death case against the Albuquerque Police Department brought by Torres’ family.

Rexroad said medications are “the gold standard” in treating people with schizophrenia. But family and social support are also extremely important, he said, and the 27-year-old Torres had lots of it.

“He was the glue for his family,” Rexroad said. “Everybody looked after Christopher and he looked after everybody” – parents, grandparents, brothers and nieces.

Rexroad said he’d been contacted once by the APD about Torres, and it was in connection with a February 2011 incident at a restaurant in which Torres disarmed a man with a gun in a restaurant – he thought he was saving others from harm – and identified himself as an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

An officer trained in dealing with mentally ill persons – with APD’s Crisis Intervention Team – contacted Rexroad and told him everyone was safe after the incident, but they wanted a competency evaluation of Torres, according to the psychiatrist’s testimony. Rexroad said he’d had positive interactions with the Crisis Intervention Team while working at the inpatient mental hospital during medical school, and that those officers had reduced potentially problematic interactions.

In cross-examination, Rexroad agreed that Torres had admitted to him in January 2011 that he was using Spice, a stimulant Rexroad said was then legal. As during past visits, Rexroad encouraged him to stop using.

Responding to a question from defense attorney Ann Maggiore, he said Torres was a danger to himself at the time of the restaurant incident and that was why he’d been taken to jail.

Rexroad said Torres, like many schizophrenics, had failed to take his medications sometimes and had missed scheduled appointments in March and April of 2011.

He said he had received an email from Torres’ mother, Renetta, concerned about the incident that led to the call for a competency evaluation. She had said in an email that his behavior had become “explosive.”

Also testifying Tuesday was a police firearms and reconstruction expert, who said there were “troubling” inconsistencies between officers’ statements in the shooting and what the physical evidence shows.



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