Interview with Officer Tanner Tixier
Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal
Fired APD officer Jeremy Dear’s lapel camera didn’t malfunction as he chased, shot and killed 19-year-old Mary Hawkes, a suspected car thief, when she allegedly pointed a gun at him in the early morning hours of April 21.
The camera wasn’t plugged in, though Albuquerque police brass have never publicly acknowledged it. Dear noticed it was unplugged immediately after the shooting and he told investigators during his interview two days after the shooting.
“Oh f—, oh f—, oh f—, s—, s—, s—. My camera. It was unplugged,” Dear told investigators as he recalled the moments after the shooting, according to a recording of the interview obtained by the Journal under the Inspection of Public Records Act. “I’ve had problems with it in the past. It comes unplugged and it won’t record.”
Dear also came to another realization as he holstered his weapon that morning.
“Oh, I’m going to be in trouble for this,” he said he thought to himself at the scene.
In the recording, Dear gives his account of the events at a trailer park near Zuni and Wyoming. He said he was so close to Hawkes’ gun that he could see the silver on the tip where the black gun was scratched.
“I was scared to death. I don’t think I’ve ever been more scared in my life,” he said in the interview. “I was afraid to die. I didn’t want to die. I have a girlfriend that I love very much. I have my 6-year-old son. I wanted to go home.”
At least one other officer at the scene also said Dear wasn’t able to record the incident because his camera wasn’t plugged in, according to a recording of the interviews.
Police Chief Gorden Eden, in a news conference a couple of hours after Dear was interviewed, said there was an air of uncertainty over Dear’s camera and why it didn’t work. Police sent the device to the manufacturer for analysis.
A report by Taser, the camera’s manufacturer, released two months after the shooting was inconclusive as to why it didn’t record the shooting and police have never clarified what happened with Dear’s camera.
But Dear was pretty clear that it had come unplugged from the battery pack and he didn’t have time to fix it as he gave chase.
Dear was terminated from APD in December. Eden in a statement at the time said it was for insubordination and untruthfulness. The chief said Dear was under an order to comply with the department’s lapel camera policy, which Dear and his attorney say is untrue.
A review of Dear’s personnel file showed he previously had not recorded when he used force while trying to arrest people. APD’s policy, which is under review, requires officers to record most interactions with the public.
Police declined to comment Friday on Dear’s interview.
Thomas Grover, Dear’s attorney, said Dear is appealing his termination. He is still a certified law enforcement officer.
Grover said Dear complied with the lapel camera policy as much as possible.
“This issue with cords coming unplugged … I hear from officers all the time the issue with the cabling is a defect,” he said. “I think there’s a design flaw.”
Dear and fellow officer Tanner Tixier were at a Dunkin’ Donuts early on the morning of the shooting when they were called to assist in a stolen vehicle investigation.
Hawkes had been spotted driving a stolen truck earlier that night. Police identified her after finding her cellphone, opened to her Facebook page, inside the truck after it had been abandoned, according to court documents.
Officers tracked Hawkes to a trailer park on the southwest corner of Wyoming and Zuni. As Dear blocked traffic on the northeast side of the park, he saw Hawkes jump over a fence and dart across Wyoming. First, she ran to a car wash, then she changed direction and ran east on Zuni.
“I yell ‘Stop’ and she looks over at me,” Dear said. “Me and her made eye contact with each other.”
Dear drove his police car to where Hawkes was running and jumped out to chase her. He said he was about 5 feet away and about to tackle her when she turned toward him and pointed a gun at him.
“She says, ‘Don’t, don’t,'” Dear said. “I draw my gun out and come up on her and say, ‘Drop it, drop it.’ She doesn’t drop it, and I’m focused on the gun and I start firing my gun until she drops.”
Tixier was driving behind Dear during the chase. He said he also saw Hawkes point the gun at Dear.
“I was scared. My first thought was, ‘Holy s—, she has a gun,” Tixier said in an interview with investigators the day after the shooting. “I was scared I was going to get shot or Dear was going to get shot.”
A homicide detective investigating the shooting asked Dear and Tixier about lapel camera footage of the incident. Tixier was the only one who produced a video. He turned on his camera after the shooting, which he said was the first chance he got.
The lapel camera Dear wore was attached to his shirt by a magnet and a cord goes from the camera to a battery on his belt, which powers the device.
To turn on the camera, Dear had to push a button on the battery. He said he pushed it as he got out of the car. But he didn’t hear a beep, so he knew the camera wasn’t recording.
“But I was more concerned about watching her running,” he said.
The detective also asked Tixier if Dear recorded the shooting.
“I know he did not,” he said. “According to him, and this has happened before, I think, when he got out of the vehicle to go on a foot chase, that cord unplugged itself from the battery pack, which completely made his camera inoperable.”
Dear was asked why he didn’t have the camera on before the chase. He said the shooting, which happened at about 5 a.m., was near the end of his shift. He was worried about how much battery was left and he said he didn’t want to have the batteries run out when he was stopping traffic.
Albuquerque police have a strict lapel camera policy that requires most officers to record all interactions with citizens.
The recordings have led to controversies. A recording of the shooting of James Boyd went viral and when officers, like Dear, fail to record a use-of-force incident, there has been a public outcry.
The city has hired the University of New Mexico to study the department’s policy, which could lead to changes. But a settlement between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice calls on APD to continue to frequently record interactions between police and the public.
The settlement was reached after the DOJ investigated the department and found it had a pattern of excessive force, which included police shootings. During that investigation, the DOJ found officers are rarely disciplined for not using their lapel cameras.
“We found very few examples of officers being reprimanded for failing to record force incidents,” the DOJ report states. “The fact that few officers were reprimanded for this failure suggests that supervisors have also failed to insist on this form of accountability.”