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After multiple investigations, no charges to be filed in ABQ shooting

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Multiple police and law enforcement agencies that have investigated the case agree that no charges should be filed against the man who killed Jonathan Mitchell at his west Albuquerque home in March 2013, District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said Thursday.

Mitchell, who was black, was killed in an exchange of gunfire with a white man, who was not charged with a crime.

District Attorney Kari Brandenburg on Thursday discusses the fatal shooting of Jonathan Mitchell by one of his neighbors. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

District Attorney Kari Brandenburg on Thursday discusses the fatal shooting of Jonathan Mitchell by one of his neighbors. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

No charges were ever filed in connection to the shooting, which happened more than a year and a half ago.

But the incident has prompted several protests on behalf of the victim, and the Albuquerque chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People petitioned for charges. In response to the backlash, Brandenburg said her office asked the attorney general to review the case “out of an abundance of caution.”

Phil Sisneros, a spokesman for the attorney general, said the office found no criminal violations. In addition to the Attorney General’s Office, Albuquerque police, New Mexico State Police and the District Attorney’s Office have all reviewed evidence in the case.

“At this point we will not be pursuing that case. I think we’ve said that several times, but (Mitchell’s) family keeps coming up with additional requests,” Brandenburg said. “Obviously the tragedy for the family will never end, but in terms of any kind of legal case, we’ll be able to conclude that at this point in time.”

Harold Bailey, the president of the Albuquerque NAACP, said Brandenburg’s announcement was expected. The NAACP has filed a complaint against her office with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and he said activists hope a civil rights investigation into the shooting results in charges.

“She’s sanctioned all the police shootings and the DOJ said they weren’t all justified,” Bailey said, referring to the DOJ’s April report that found the Albuquerque Police Department had a pattern of excessive force, which included police shootings. “We don’t have a lot of confidence in (Brandenburg’s) office.”

Mitchell, an Iraq war veteran, was shot and killed in his garage when he and Donnie Pearson exchanged gunfire in their Ventana Ranch neighborhood. Mitchell fired at Pearson, who was driving by, and Pearson returned gunfire. Brandenburg said Pearson was acting in self-defense.

Also on Thursday, Brandenburg said her office was expecting to complete its review of several officer-involved shootings by Christmas. She said, a decision on whether state charges will be filed in connection to the James Boyd shooting is expected by early 2015.

Brandenburg said she is reviewing the Boyd case herself. Boyd, a mentally ill camper, was shot by APD Detective Keith Sandy and officer Dominique Perez in the Sandia foothills in March.

“It does have some priority in that I am personally reviewing it to try to speed it up, but we’re really working hard to do that on all the cases,” she said.

The District Attorney’s Office reviews the criminal investigations into officer-involved shootings and decides whether or not to file criminal charges against the officer. Brandenburg, in her fourth term as the county’s top prosecutor, has never charged an officer for his or her role in a police shooting.

She said officers have to make split-second decisions that are easy to second-guess, but that laws give officers more leeway than regular citizens when it comes to using deadly force.

“Officers … have broader discretion in using deadly force than you or I would,” she said. “I would want to be very careful in undoing that. If our police officers can’t defend themselves, it could affect us.”