ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In the hours before Albuquerque police shot and killed a homeless, mentally ill camper in the Sandia foothills, one of the officers was recorded on a New Mexico State Police officer’s dashboard camera, calling the man a “lunatic” and threatening to shoot him during a conversation about Taser shotguns.
In the recording, APD detective Keith Sandy tells State Police Sgt. Chris Ware that James Boyd was a “f***ing lunatic” and that he was going to shoot him with some type of shotgun. That part of the recording is difficult to make out, even when enhanced, but the remaining portion of the conversation is about Taser shotguns, which are considered less-lethal weapons.
In a supplemental police report released Monday by the Albuquerque Police Department, Ware first told investigators he didn’t remember what Sandy had said but, after listening to the recording, said Sandy was talking about a Taser shotgun, which fires rounds from a longer distance than a hand-held weapon.
“Sergeant Ware was adamant in regards to the statement made (during) the recording,” the report reads.
Boyd was camping illegally in the foothills on March 16. Police said he threatened officers with a knife and negotiations with him lasted more than four hours. The intent was to arrest him for assault before nightfall when police fired on him with both lethal and nonlethal force.
Boyd died the next day and video of the incident brought additional angry attention to APD, which was already being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Some news organizations reported that Sandy said he was going to shoot Boyd in the penis. That was not clear from the Journal’s review of the recording. APD has not confirmed or denied it, and a spokeswoman refused to comment.
Local civil rights attorney Shannon Kennedy, who is representing Boyd’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and APD, said she thinks Sandy says on the recording that he’s going to shoot Boyd in the penis. She said Ware’s response – “You got less lethal?” – implies Sandy was talking about lethal force. But, she said, no matter the type of weapon, Sandy’s intent was violent.
“I think everybody can listen to it 50 times … either way, his intent to shoot (Boyd) is the same. It’s outrageous what they did to this poor man,” Kennedy said. “I think the city is obfuscating the real issue here, which is that there’s a culture of aggression and that culture culminated in the wrongful death of James Matthew Boyd.”
“I had no intent of going up the hill and doing that,” Sandy says to an APD investigator about shooting Boyd.
According to a transcript of an interview between an APD officer and Sandy obtained by Kennedy, Sandy said he jokingly told Ware he was going to shoot Ware “in the pecker” with his Taser shotgun. He later said he couldn’t remember if he had said that, and said he had never used the word “pecker” in his life.
“If it’s on the tape, then I said it,” he told the investigator. “But I don’t recall from my own recollection in my mind saying that.”
The transcript also says sometimes jokes among members of the Repeat Offender Project team – which is an APD unit tasked with arresting the city’s worst criminals – go so far that they have a safe word, “China,” which means they’ll stop joking.
APD released a copy of the State Police dashboard camera Monday, along with a written statement from chief Gorden Eden saying he wouldn’t comment because of an ongoing FBI criminal investigation into the shooting.
“We will await the outcome of the federal investigation to proceed further with any administrative action involving the officer(s),” Eden’s statement reads. “Myself as chief or any official from the city cannot provide any comment or interpretation of this evidence that is currently under federal criminal investigation.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office also declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
Sandy is on administrative leave with pay.