Police are investigating a fatal officer-involved shooting Tuesday that an Albuquerque Police Department spokeswoman said happened after a suspect shot at police during a chase.
Around 4:45 p.m. officers responded to suspicious criminal activity near San Mateo and Constitution and although one suspect was quickly apprehended, the other fled on foot, firing an unknown number of rounds at officers, according to a statement released by Celina Espinoza, a spokeswoman for APD.
“Officers found the shooter near Constitution and Aspen,” Espinoza wrote in an email just before 10 p.m. “This suspect again fired at officers, and at least one officer returned fire mortally wounding the offender. The individual was wearing body armor, and his weapon was found near his body.”
Two officers were put on leave, Espinoza said Tuesday night, which is APD policy in such cases.
The other man was handcuffed and transported by ambulance away from a scene at the intersection of Manzano and Summer NE. Police blocked off several streets throughout the neighborhoods surrounding San Mateo and Constitution while they investigated.
APD released no further details.
Patrick Dowless, who lives near where the shooting took place, said he saw what he believed was a body lying in an alley just east of San Mateo between Constitution and Aspen.
“I heard 11 to 14 shots and heard screeching tires and sirens, so I knew something was happening,” Dowless said. “I went outside and saw lots of officers running towards a body and some running the other way. The officers were standing over the body but when the paramedics arrived they stood up right away.”
Journal staff captured footage of a man’s body lying in the alley between San Mateo Park, which runs on the east side of San Mateo Boulevard, and Madeira Drive NE. The body appeared to be uncovered. A handgun was near the man’s left foot, and he appeared to have a wound in his side. His chest was bare and he was wearing pants that appeared to be cut at the knee and tennis shoes. What looked like a bullet-proof vest was on the ground near him. His hands were behind his back. Yellow crime scene tape stretched across the alley.
Larry Price and his family moved into a house directly abutting the alley in September and said overall it’s a nice neighborhood, but he has noticed the area attracting criminal activity. His daughter called him shortly before 5 p.m. telling him there was a body in the alley directly behind their house.
“The thing that concerns me is guns being shot where kids could have been playing on the trampoline,” Price said. “It’s still a little scary, but it’s not like it’s an everyday thing.”
Details about the shooting were scarce Tuesday evening. Officers were heard on the police radio, which is public information, recommending to one another to not say anything over the air because “people are listening.”
The shooting comes at a time of turmoil for the department, which has long faced criticism for its use of force, especially in officer-involved shootings.
In recent months, the city and the federal Department of Justice signed a court-enforceable agreement mandating reforms. That came after the DOJ found APD officers unconstitutionally used force against its citizens.
At least four protesters arrived near Aspen and San Mateo around 6:45 p.m. One of the protesters carried a sign that read, “We want justice, (expletive) indictment.”
“We had a really good streak there (without an officer-involved shooting) and here we are three weeks into the year and there’s another shooting,” said Renee Garcia, an activist with ABQ Justice.
On Monday, Bernalillo County’s district attorney filed murder charges against two officers who fatally shot a homeless camper in March 2014. It’s the first time District Attorney Kari Brandenburg has filed charges against officers involved in a shooting while on duty.
Last week, an APD lieutenant shot and critically wounded another officer during an undercover narcotics bust. That was the first officer-involved shooting in 2015.