Hundreds of protesters marched from the Downtown bus station to the Albuquerque Police Department headquarters this evening to denounce the fatal police shooting of a homeless, mentally ill man earlier this month.
Officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez fired three rounds each at 38-year-old James Boyd,who police say was camping illegally in the foothills on March 16. Boyd died the next morning at the hospital.
Police have said Boyd repeatedly threatened them during an hours-long standoff and was armed with knives.
Helmet-cam footage released by the department shows Boyd turning away from officers when he was shot, and he appeared to have an agreement with police as he gathered his belongings and started to walk down a small hill.
Police said a Crisis Intervention Team earlier had tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with Boyd.
Video of the shooting, which has been seen around the country, has re-ignited criticism of APD, which already is under civil investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for its use of force. The police department has shot and killed 22 men since 2010.
Protesters Tuesday marched down Central Avenue and Third Street, blocking traffic and carrying signs reading such things as “Justice for James Boyd” and “Jail Killer Cops.” The march ended in front of Albuquerque Police headquarters at Fourth and Roma.
“The people united can jail killer cops,” a crowd of hundreds chanted.
March organizers called for the officers to be indicted for the shooting. A mock arrest warrant was circulated, asking for Sandy’s arrest by the citizens of Albuquerque.
“Albuquerque is one of the epicenters of police shootings, you can’t talk about the national issue without talking about where it’s the worst,” said Mike Prysner, and Iraq war veteran who drove from Los Angeles to attend the protest. “We don’t travel often, it was a senseless shooting.”
Albuquerque chief administrative officer Rob Perry issued a statement in response to the protesters that reads, “We recognize their right to peacefully protest.”
Mayor Richard Berry this week called the video “horrific” and “unsettling” and said he has asked the DOJ to specifically review the Boyd shooting.
Several city councilors on both sides of the aisle also called for a federal investigation, and the Justice Department will meet with community leaders requesting the same today. Both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Governor expressed their concern.
Also on Tuesday, some former members of the Police Oversight Task Force, which recently submitted recommendations for an overhaul of the city’s civilian police oversight board, gathered earlier on Civic Plaza to condemn the shooting and urge councilors to adopt all of their recommendations, particularly one that would allow the Police Oversight Commission to recommend policy proposals to the chief of police. The task force recommendations, if adopted, would also require the chief to write a reason for rejecting the policy proposal, if that’s what he or she chooses to do.
“It is absolutely necessary that there be effective civilian police oversight,” said Alan Wagman, a former task force member, who urged the council to adopt the recommendations with “as little change as possible”.
But even the most effective civilian oversight board is powerless to make the department to take moral, not just legal, responsibility for the conduct of its officers, Wagman said.
“They also have a responsibility to the city morally,” he said, blasting “legalistic” justifications for shooting that he said police provide after these types of incidents. “It our city officials cannot see that happened was morally wrong, then nothing will change.”
Police Chief Gorden Eden came under fire after he said he thought the shooting was justified by case law five days later, but later said that was a “premature” comment. He walked out of that press conference while reporters were still asking him questions, leaving many unanswered.
Sandy is a member of APD’s Repeat Offender Project, which goes after the city’s career criminals. APD said Monday that ROP was requested for its training in less lethal force, specifically Tasers.
Boyd had a lengthy criminal history that included assaults on law enforcement officers.
Journal Staff Writer Patrick Lohmann contributed to this report.