The city has agreed to pay $5 million to the family of James Boyd, a homeless man who was shot and killed by Albuquerque police last year in a high-profile case that made national headlines.
The settlement was announced by the family’s attorney, Shannon Kennedy, on Friday and confirmed by city officials.
Lawsuits stemming from police shootings have cost taxpayers more than $25 million in recent years; Albuquerque police have shot more than 40 people since 2010, 29 of them fatally.
Kennedy issued a statement that said the family was pleased its lawsuit has led to changes within the Albuquerque Police Department – specifically, improving the department’s treatment of people who are homeless or mentally ill.
“The family sought justice to ensure that what happened to Mr. Boyd never happens to anyone else, and they believe the city is taking necessary steps to ensure officers are provided adequate training, supervision and support and that Mr. Boyd’s death changes policing for the better in Albuquerque,” Kennedy said in a statement. “The family hopes Albuquerque becomes a model for other cities struggling with the same issues around our country.”
City Attorney Jessica Hernandez said in a prepared statement that the parties thought it was the right time to settle the case.
“We are hopeful that resolving this difficult and emotional case is a significant step in moving forward as a community,” she said. “The City and the Department are committed to the reform efforts that are already underway, including specialized training in managing situations involving mental health issues.”
Former Detective Keith Sandy and officer Dominique Perez are charged with second-degree murder in the shooting, which took place in March 2014 at the end of an hourslong standoff in the Sandia foothills where Boyd was camping illegally.
Boyd suffered from schizophrenia and had been in and out of jail and the state’s mental hospital in Las Vegas, N.M., numerous times over the years.
His death sparked a national outcry when Perez’s on-body camera showed that Boyd appeared ready to surrender when he was fatally shot.
Boyd’s family filed suit in June 2014, describing a scene in which 41 officers went to an open-space area just east of Copper because Boyd had threatened an officer with a knife. It contended there was a lack of command and control over the officers before the shooting.
After more than four hours, Boyd was shot as a group of Albuquerque SWAT officers, K9 units and Sandy, who was a member of the now-disbanded Repeat Offender Project, tried to arrest him because nightfall was approaching, according to police reports on the shooting.
The settlement brings the city’s tab for officer misconduct lawsuits since 2010 to at least $28 million, though exact figures weren’t available Friday.
The fatal shooting of Ken Ellis III and Christopher Torres resulted in $8 million and $6 million settlements, respectively.
“For far too long, the Albuquerque Police Department fostered policies and practices that failed officers and, in turn, the most vulnerable in our community,” Kennedy said. “The policies and practices created an atmosphere where the officers most indifferent to human life could recklessly interact with residents, killing them without significant concern or consequence.”
Albuquerque police are putting in to place a number of court-enforceable reforms. The reforms were agreed to after the federal Department of Justice investigated APD and found it had a pattern of excessive force, which included police shootings.