A sad tale of police, guns and a family history - Albuquerque Journal

A sad tale of police, guns and a family history

It’s been a month and a half since 19-year-old Mary Hawkes died at the hands of Albuquerque police and, for me at least, there’s been a nagging gloom around this one – No. 24 in a string of 26 fatal police shootings over the past four years.

“This shooting just made me feel so profoundly sad,” someone said to me the other day. Me too. And I’ve been pondering why.

Is it because Hawkes was the first woman to join the list of people killed by city police officers since 2010? Because she was 5-foot-2 and barely 100 pounds? Because she was really just a kid?

Is it that it seemed avoidable – a forced confrontation in the middle of the night to flush out a suspect in a 2-week-old auto theft case? Couldn’t an arrest warrant in the morning have kept everyone safer?

Is it the autopsy findings – a bullet shot into her left ear, another into her left bicep and another through the top of her right shoulder – which seem hard to square with the stated scenario of Hawkes stopping, turning and pointing a handgun just before she was shot?

Mary Hawkes, 19, was the first woman killed by APD since 2010.
Mary Hawkes, 19, was the first woman killed by APD since 2010.

Is it the autopsy findings of scrapes and bruises on her chest, both knees and the backs of both forearms?

Is it the absence of the officer’s lapel cam video that would answer those questions about what she and the officer were doing when she was shot?

Each time someone is killed by police, there’s a rippling of effects – the personal tragedy to the family, the toll on the police officer who has taken a life and the public policy discussion about whether it was an avoidable use of deadly force.

With that in mind, I also wonder whether the Hawkes killing continues to nag me because of her family history, which brings additional layers of nuance and complication.

Hawkes came into the large family of Danny and Mary Alice Hawkes as a foster child and was eventually adopted.

Danny Hawkes, who retired last year as a Valencia County magistrate judge, had spent much of his professional life as a police officer. He was a patrolman for the Belen and Socorro police departments, and served as undersheriff in Valencia County before being elected sheriff there at age 28. And he had a deadly force experience of his own when he wore a badge.

The lawyer the Hawkeses have hired to represent them in the process of appointing legal personal representatives for their daughter’s estate did not respond to my many phone messages. In the days following their daughter’s death, the Hawkeses released a statement expressing their sorrow and asking to be left alone in their grief. They also said, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved, including the officer and his family.”

I respect their wishes, but still, I’d like to share a story, published years ago, of another police shooting that involved a young Belen patrolman, a 23-year-old Danny Hawkes.

It is a case in which the officer used deadly force – most likely saving his own life so he could go on to be Mary’s adopted dad. But it’s also a case in which a young life was spared because the officer used persuasion, not firepower, to defuse the situation.

On a warm Saturday in September 1979, according to an account produced by historian Jim Boeck for the Valencia County Historical Society and published in the Valencia County News-Bulletin in 2002, Hawkes was off duty getting his car serviced when a call came over the radio about an armed robbery in progress at Trembly’s Jewelry Store on Main Street.

The three robbers – a man, a woman and a 16-year-old boy – had taped up the wrists of the store owners, an employee and two customers, and made off on foot with $100,000 of loot. Hawkes jumped into the patrol car of the assistant police chief and grabbed a spare revolver from the glove compartment.

According to the historian’s account, Hawkes jumped out when he saw the robbers, and chased and tackled the unarmed female suspect. When Hawkes had her on the ground, he heard a man behind him, later identified as Frank Cruz, threaten to blow his head off if he didn’t let the woman go.

D. HAWKES: Fatally shot a suspect in 1979
D. HAWKES: Fatally shot a suspect in 1979

The historian’s account continues:

“Wheeling without hesitation and seeing Cruz’s gun pointed straight at him, Hawkes shot his would-be assassin in the head.”

After Cruz fell dead, Hawkes took off running after the teenager and cornered him.

“Remaining calm, Hawkes told the kid to put his gun down. Aware of what had just happened to Cruz, the juvenile knew that Hawkes meant business. The boy dropped his gun and surrendered, much to the police officer’s relief. Hawkes had no desire to kill Cruz, no less a youngster, in the line of duty.”

Hawkes was lauded as a hero. Within a week of the incident, the district attorney announced that Cruz’s death was a justifiable homicide. The News-Bulletin editorialized that Hawkes should receive a commendation for his actions. And the incident was featured in an episode of the TV show “Top Cops.”

This all took place before the era of lapel cam videos and Internet journalism, two developments that have made police shootings much more a part of the public forum, and open to analysis and criticism online. Hawkes would have been left more alone with his experience than an officer would be today.

Hawkes didn’t respond to a request to talk to me about the 1979 shooting, but the Historical Society account says it ate at him.

“Nightmares haunted him at night and into his waking hours,” according to the history. “It was the same haunting feeling that a soldier experiences when he still sees the eyes of the men he has killed in combat.”

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Leslie at 823-3914 or llinthicum@abqjournal.com.

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop


ABQ officials push tough-on-crime bills
ABQnews Seeker
Legislation would increase penalties for firearms, ... Legislation would increase penalties for firearms, alter pretrial detention
Man charged in 2021 ABQ homicide
ABQnews Seeker
A man is charged in the ... A man is charged in the shooting death of another last year at an apartment complex in Southeast Albuquerque. Brandon Holloman, 28, is charged ...
Attorneys say MDC could not find inmates for hearings, ...
ABQnews Seeker
On Thursday, one of Ryan Villa's ... On Thursday, one of Ryan Villa's clients was supposed to appear at a pretrial detention hearing — by way of a tablet in a ...
Albuquerque issues air quality alert for blowing dust
ABQnews Seeker
The City of Albuquerque has issued ... The City of Albuquerque has issued an air quality health alert for Friday night due to dust and high winds.  The city's Environmental Health ...
HS senior sows seeds of altruism, community
ABQnews Seeker
Student began a campus garden to ... Student began a campus garden to expand access to freshly grown produce
Vax on, vax off: City reverses course on policy
ABQnews Seeker
Shots encouraged, but no longer mandated Shots encouraged, but no longer mandated
LFC report: Changing pretrial detention won’t lower crime
ABQnews Seeker
A new report by Legislative Finance ... A new report by Legislative Finance Committee analysts found that low arrest, prosecution and conviction rates may have more to do with the crime ...
APD arrests smoke shop owner in drug, gun bust
ABQnews Seeker
Man, 40, believed to be 'a ... Man, 40, believed to be 'a primary drug dealer' in East Central area
'Hamilton' at Popejoy postponed until May 2023 due to ...
ABQnews Seeker
Tickets and seats remain secure, and ... Tickets and seats remain secure, and will be honored