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AK-47 Was Loaded

See video of the news conference and the incident below.

Albuquerque police on Wednesday painted a grim picture of what might have been if the man they shot and killed this week had fired his loaded AK-47 during a short standoff.

The AK-47 held by 31-year-old Michael Marquez was loaded with 30 military-grade bullets, Police Chief Ray Schultz said. And Marquez had led police to believe he was going to shoot while his hand was in the bag that contained the assault rifle.

Had Marquez had a chance to shoot, the scene could quickly have become far more deadly than it was, Schultz said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon. To prove his point, Schultz displayed a car door penetrated by bullets fired from an assault rifle. He said the bullets penetrated the door and at least five bulletproof vests stacked behind one another.

“Officers would not have had a chance to defend themselves,” Schultz said.

It was not the scenario police were hoping for, he said.

In fact, detectives began working with Marquez’ family Aug. 4 to try to persuade Marquez to turn himself in. By then, detectives had connected him to three armed robberies: one at a Valero gas station, another at a hotel and one robbery of an individual.

But detectives struggled to locate Marquez and could not get him to turn himself in. They devised a “complex” operational plan for an arrest, Schultz said.

That eight-page plan included having nonlethal weapons on hand in case Marquez resisted arrest. Officers on scene were equipped with Tasers and beanbag shotguns, Schultz said. But the large field and empty space on which the incident unfolded was not conducive to nonlethal force, the chief said.

Suspect ‘agitated’

Marquez’ family believes police could have done more to avoid shooting him. Bill Marquez, who is Michael’s cousin but was raised with him and considered him his brother, said police should have resorted to lesser force.

“What we’re pretty hurt about is the situation; there’s a whole lot to it. We believe there could have been different ways to handle that,” Bill Marquez said.

Bill Marquez said Michael, a father of five, wasn’t working and had been depressed lately.

“It probably was pretty hard for him to get a job anyway (because of his criminal record). A lot of it is pretty tough when you come from a poor family; you can’t afford a good lawyer; you pretty much have to deal with any problems,” Bill Marquez said.

Schultz said police followed all protocols.

On Tuesday morning, robbery detectives attempted to serve an arrest warrant on Marquez. But Marquez, a three-time convict who had served time for raping a 14-year-old girl, was armed, resisted arrest and made threatening moves, police said.

The incident began around 10:40 a.m. Tuesday, when detectives were led to an apartment on 60th Street just north of Central NW by a Crime Stoppers tip and confidential informant.

Detectives were watching Marquez at the apartment when he apparently spotted them and walked out the back door, Schultz said. Alejandra Hernandez, his girlfriend, tried running out the front door but was stopped by police, Schultz said. She told police he had a gun.

When officers tried to approach him, Marquez 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, Schultz said. Inside the bag was the assault rifle, which police said had been reported stolen in Farmington on July 8.

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 arrived on scene.

When Marquez cycled a round on what turned out to be an AK-47, it made what Schultz called a distinctive sound. SWAT sniper James Perdue fired two shots at Marquez, who died on scene. Police said they did not know how far Perdue was from Marquez or whether he personally heard the rifle being cycled.

A resident of a house near the field off 60th Street and Avalon NW where the incident unfolded captured it on video.

Schultz played that video for the media. A man and woman could be heard saying they could tell Marquez had a gun. The video showed Marquez crouched down with a large black bag, and officers could be heard yelling what sounded like commands.

Criminal history

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.

In July 2006, 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.

The Journal reported that Marquez was a member of the violent MS-13 gang, but police said Wednesday that he was a member of the Sureño 13 gang, also a violent gang.

“Many of the criminals we see nowadays no longer have rap sheets. They have rap books,” Schultz said.

Albuquerque police have been heavily scrutinized since a spike in officer shootings began last year.

With Marquez, 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.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal