APD detectives are investigating two of their own for possible criminal charges stemming from a February incident in which one of the officers kicked a man several times in the head while the other officer was holding him down on the ground.
Police Chief Ray Schultz, who viewed a surveillance video of the incident, said “the use of force went far beyond not meeting our policies and rose to the felony level.”
Officer John Doyle wrote in his report on the incident that he kicked 32-year-old Nicholas Blume after a short vehicle and foot pursuit in Northeast Albuquerque on Feb. 13. He has been on administrative leave since mid-May, when the incident came to Schultz’s attention.
Officer Robert Woolever, the other officer involved, has been on desk duty since then.
Blume, who has a long criminal record, was arrested on auto theft, resisting arrest and two firearms charges. He told officers after his arrest that he’d been smoking crack.
The incident took place in the parking garage of the Barcelona Hotel near the intersection of Marble and Louisiana NE, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court.
Detectives obtained a video recording of the beating from the hotel’s surveillance cameras. It went through the APD chain of command and eventually wound up in front of Schultz.
“Obviously what I saw on the video was of great concern to me,” Schultz said in an interview Tuesday. “… That’s why I immediately ordered a criminal investigation.”
Schultz spoke with District Attorney Kari Brandenburg after watching the video to let her know detectives may be submitting a criminal case against Doyle and Woolever. He also asked the FBI to assist on the case.
Deputy DA Gary Cade said Blume is not cooperating with investigators.
Blume’s attorney, Ray Twohig, said his client has filed a complaint against the officers. He did not know which process Blume used for the complaint.
Twohig said that because Blume was charged with auto theft after the incident – and several other felonies stemming from numerous warrants – he can’t testify against Doyle and Woolever without a promise of immunity.
“… I don’t think it would be granted because APD is doing the investigation,” he said. “They shouldn’t be investigating their own – it’s a conflict of interest – but they do it all the time.”
Neither Doyle nor Woolever could be reached for comment.
Blume has a lengthy criminal history that includes dozens of arrests, according to court and police records. He spent more than a year in prison from June 2006 to July 2007 for drug possession, extortion, aggravated battery and stolen vehicle charges.
After violating his parole in September 2007, he was rearrested and spent nearly two more years in prison.
On Feb. 13 of this year, he was driving north on the 500 block of Chama NE in a truck whose license plate wasn’t visible, Doyle wrote in his police report.
Doyle and Woolever, who were riding together, followed the truck and, before Doyle could engage his emergency equipment, it stopped, the report states. Doyle got out of his police vehicle, and the truck drove away.
The officers again followed the truck until it crashed into the side of a building on the 900 block of Louisiana NE, according to the report. At that point, a man later identified as Blume got out and fled on foot.
The officers gave chase, according to the report, and Doyle “realized (Blume) fit the description of a male who gang detectives were looking for.”
During the foot chase, Woolever yelled to Doyle that Blume was “reaching for his waistband,” the report states. Eventually, Woolever chased Blume into the hotel parking garage and pinned him to the ground “face down with his hands underneath of him.”
Doyle wrote in his report that he gave Blume commands to show his hands, but Blume did not comply.
“With the subject’s hands at waist level, the possibility of him being armed, and the fact that he was refusing verbal commands, I did not want to give up my advantage to get my firearm by going to the ground with the subject,” Doyle wrote. “After the subject’s refusal of verbal commands and because I thought he could be armed, I threw several kicks striking the subject on the side of his head.”
The officers then got Blume into handcuffs and under arrest, the report states.
Investigators later learned that the truck Blume was driving had been stolen, according to the report. Inside it they found a stolen firearm.
Blume told officers he had been smoking crack prior to driving, according to the report. He was taken to University of New Mexico Hospital to have his blood drawn and for medical attention.
From there, Blume was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center, where he remained late Tuesday on a no-bond hold.
He was indicted in state District Court in March on charges of auto theft, receiving a stolen firearm, being a felon in possession of a firearm and resisting arrest.
Blume is facing additional charges in state and federal court stemming from other incidents.
Schultz said an Internal Affairs investigation into the beating will begin once detectives wrap up their criminal inquiry and submit it to the DA’s Office.
He said the criminal investigation is in the “final write-up stages” and should be handed over to prosecutors in the next week or so.
Doyle and Woolever have been with APD about four years each, the chief said.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal