ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The man Albuquerque police shot and killed Tuesday — the 14th in 20 months — was a robbery suspect with a long criminal record who officials say refused to drop what turned out to be an AK-47.
After a short standoff with police, a SWAT sniper fired more than once, killing Michael Marquez, 31, in an open field near an apartment building, according to police.
Marquez, a convicted rapist, was a member of the notorious MS-13 gang, known for its violence, Police Chief Ray Schultz said.
About 10 to 15 family members gathered at the scene of the shooting near Central and 60th SW, crying and hugging each other.
Bill Marquez, the suspect’s brother, told a Journal photographer that just because someone is criminal does not mean they “should be treated like an animal.”
The incident began around 10:40 a.m. Tuesday, when detectives working a Crime Stoppers tip regarding a man suspected in three armed robberies began watching Marquez, Schultz said.
Schultz said robbery detectives had gathered intelligence on Marquez and that confidential informants had confirmed his identity and whereabouts.
Detectives were watching Marquez at the apartment, just north of Central, when they spotted a woman who Schultz said was a known acquaintance of Marquez and pulled her over. When the woman was being pulled over, other detectives spotted Marquez walking out of the apartment on 60th Street.
Marquez had spotted police, seemed “agitated” and began making comments to them about not going back to jail and “going out with a bang,” Schultz said.
Marquez was holding a bag and refused to put it down, he said.
A crisis negotiation team was called in, but Marquez continued to disobey police commands, the chief said.
Negotiators tried to reason with Marquez for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, the department’s SWAT team had arrived on scene.
“He was basically going to go out with a bang or worse,” Schultz said.
Police suspected Marquez had a long gun or rifle in his bag because of its shape and the way he held it, Schultz said. Schultz said Marquez had his hand in the bag and was cradling it.
Officers felt vulnerable because they were in an open field with nothing to use for cover. In addition, there were civilians outside in the surrounding area, Schultz said.
Officers heard Marquez cycle the weapon. Schultz said AK-47s make a very distinct sound when cycled.
That’s when a SWAT sniper fired his rifle at Marquez at least twice, although police still are not sure how many shots were fired.
Marquez died at the scene.
Online court records show Marquez had an extensive criminal history.
In 1999, he pleaded guilty to rape and false imprisonment and was sentenced to four years, with credit for time served. Three years later, he was charged for failing to register as a sex offender, although that charge was dropped.
Marquez also pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm in 2004. Court records show he violated his probation on several occasions.
Marquez got himself in trouble again in July 2006, when he was arrested for possession of drugs, and in 2008 for aggravated fleeing of police and car theft. Those cases were combined, and Marquez eventually pleaded guilty to all counts. He was sentenced to three years in prison, court records show.
Most recently, Marquez had been featured on Crime Stoppers for his suspected role in the armed robberies of two businesses and one person. One was on July 28 at a hotel, police said.
In the confrontation with police Tuesday, Marquez made comments about not going back to prison. Schultz said that the safety of officers and the public was jeopardized.
“Obviously no officer wants to find themselves in a situation where they have to use force,” Schultz said.
“Unfortunately, he dictated the series of actions,” he said.
Albuquerque police have been heavily scrutinized since a spike in officer shootings began last year.
There have been 20 APD shootings since January 2010, 14 of them fatal.
The department has faced citizen protests and could be investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for possible civil rights violations. The Department of Justice is reviewing information to determine whether it will start an investigation.
A review ordered by Mayor Richard Berry last year recommended changes in training and procedures, most of which have been adopted by the department.
Schultz and other department leaders have maintained that officers have resorted to lethal force in situations where there were no other options, and that police increasingly encounter violent people.