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Two new lawsuits on APD shootings

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two more Albuquerque Police Department shootings, one of them fatal, have drawn lawsuits in 2nd Judicial District Court.

A lawsuit filed last month by Veronica Dorato, personal representative of the estate of Daniel Tillison, alleges APD Officer and former Army Ranger Martin Smith should never have been hired by the city because he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Another lawsuit, filed by Rachel Higgins and Kari Morrissey seeks damages from the city for the actions of Officer Brian Pitzer, who shot and wounded Joaquin Ortega on Oct. 28, 2013.

The Tillison suit says the city knew that Smith had a 100 percent disability rating from the Veterans Affairs Hospital but was re-hired after being in multiple engagements in Afghanistan despite the fact that he was suffering from flashbacks, blackouts and waking nightmares.

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Smith was assigned to the Southeast command, sometimes colloquially dubbed “the war zone.”

Smith responded to a 911 call on March 19, 2012 at 1:08 p.m. involving a black SUV at an apartment complex in the 8200 block of Marquette. The anonymous caller said someone might be selling stolen merchandise in the parking lot.

Smith notified dispatch he’d arrived at 1:13 p.m. and approached Tillison’s car, parking directly behind it and approaching the driver’s side with his gun drawn, the lawsuit says.

He told Tillison to show his hands, and Tillison, talking on a black cell phone, said he hadn’t done anything wrong and raised his hands while still holding the phone.

The lawsuit suggests Smith shot Tillison, then 29, “during a PTSD related episode,” killing him.

Smith’s call reporting shots fired was less than 3 minutes after arriving at the scene, according to the lawsuit filed by Frances C. Carpenter. It claims excessive force, unreasonable search and seizure and loss of consortium by his fiancee and their children.

The District Attorney’s Office found that Smith shot Tillison, who who allegedly crashed his SUV into Smith’s vehicle, in self defense.

In the Orgega case, Pitzer arrived at Central and Washington in response to a dispatch describing Ortega.

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Police have said Ortega was reportedly driving people off the road near Girard and Lead SE before he crashed his car near Central and Washington, robbed a woman with her grandchild and attempted a carjacking, according to police.

Ortega survived the shooting, and was booked into jail on charges of aggravated assault on a police officer and armed robbery, among other charges. Ortega pleaded not guilty in that case. Police said he was drunk and possibly on prescription pills during the incident.

Pitzer approached Ortega in a parking lot and ran toward him with his gun drawn and told Ortega to drop his gun, firing two to three shots as Ortega ran away and tossed his gun into the air.

It was Pitzer’s third officer-involved shooting in four years.

The lawsuit contends Pitzer saw Ortega thrown the gun away as well as where it landed but still fired 3 or 4 times more, hitting Ortega in the back. The shooting was captured on a lapel camera and the lawsuit says the footage shows the officer “was not in imminent danger” and therefore should not have used deadly force.

Although Pitzer has been named in other complaints and lawsuits, the complaint says the city has failed to conduct remedial or corrective training.

The City Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the two lawsuits.

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