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Lawsuit Puts APD Hiring On Trial

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It took two attempts for Brett Lampiris-Tremba to become an Albuquerque police officer.

In 1992, he was unsuccessful even though he lied to APD screeners about whether he had ever smoked marijuana, according to court documents.

Five years later, he admitted to being untruthful in his response to the drug question in the 1992 interview, and Lampiris-Tremba became a cop, the court records state.

During his 14 years with APD, Lampiris-Tremba used an electronic stun gun on a man during a traffic stop but didn’t properly document the incident, fired four shots from his rifle at a suspect’s car, crashed his squad car three times and was twice disciplined for failing to report leave time, the court records state.

For those and other reasons, Lampiris-Tremba shouldn’t have been hired or kept on at the department, according to attorneys for the family of an Iraq war vet who Lampiris-Tremba fatally shot outside a Northeast Heights convenience store in January 2010.

Deputy City Attorney Kathy Levy said in an interview that APD stands by its decision to hire Lampiris-Tremba.

The officer used marijuana “five to 10 times … while in high school,” Levy said. And the number of times Lampiris-Tremba has been disciplined for violating APD standard operating procedures is “not unusual” for an officer who has been on the force 14 years.

Attorneys Shannon Kennedy and Frances Crockett are suing the city on behalf of the family of veteran Kenneth Ellis III. The lawsuit alleges negligent hiring and supervision and wrongful death, and the attorneys have filed an amended complaint in the case.

During discovery in the lawsuit, the city objected to the attorneys’ request for copies of Lampiris-Tremba’s and another officer’s Internal Affairs and personnel files. But a judge ordered the city to produce the files, subject to the terms of a confidentiality agreement.

The family’s attorneys included additional allegations from the files in an amended complaint. Again, the city objected, so the attorneys agreed to file the complaint under a “conditional” seal.

The Journal filed a motion in July to have the amended complaint unsealed, arguing it had been closed in violation of a Supreme Court rule and because such court documents are generally available to the public.

A state District Court judge granted the motion late last month.

Lampiris-Tremba fatally shot Ellis outside a convenience store.

Police have described the shooting as “suicide by cop,” and Lampiris-Tremba has been cleared of wrongdoing by both APD Internal Affairs and a Bernalillo County grand jury.

The attorneys have also named Lampiris-Tremba and APD Officer Byron “Trey” Economidy III, who had pulled over the car Ellis was driving and allegedly pointed his gun at the car’s occupants, in a civil rights lawsuit.

The amended complaint also lays out the answers to several questions Lampiris-Tremba was asked on his pre-employment application in 1997. Among them were affirmative answers to questions about being suspended from a school, committing larceny, altering or possessing a false identification, and being dishonest in a police selection process.

Levy said most of his answers stemmed from incidents during childhood.

“It’s fine to have a complaint for negligent hiring,” she said, “but it has to be in good faith. There was no reason to put these half-truths in the complaint. It was meant to embarrass the officer, and it does not go to the heart of the lawsuit at all.”

The complaint also contained an allegation that Lampiris-Tremba had not passed a psychological examination prior to being hired, but Crockett said she and Kennedy have since received documentation showing the officer did get the exam.

“The citizens of Albuquerque should know that our Police Department is willing to hire someone with (Lampiris-Tremba’s) background history and someone who lied the first time he applied,” Crockett said. “We think his answers speak for themselves.”
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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