ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Pro Tem Judge Neil Candelaria on Wednesday denied a motion to dismiss the murder charges Albuquerque police officer Dominique Perez and former detective Keith Sandy are facing after the prosecution rested its case.
The judge’s ruling means the preliminary hearing against Perez and Sandy will go forward with the defense presenting its case before Candelaria decides whether the officers will stand trial.
Sandy and Perez are facing second-degree murder and lesser offenses for the fatal shooting of James Boyd in the Sandia foothills in March 2014. Boyd was killed after a standoff that lasted about three hours and ended in what a prosecution expert said was about a second and a half of gunfire.
When the prosecution rested, David Roman, one of Perez’s attorneys, and Sandy’s attorney, Sam Bregman, argued that the case should be dismissed. They said there was no evidence that Perez and Sandy didn’t act like “reasonable” police officers when they shot Boyd and there was no evidence that Boyd had surrendered.
Candelaria on Wednesday did dismiss an involuntary manslaughter offense against the officers, but he left open the possibility the officers could be charged with second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter after the preliminary hearing.
Bregman said Boyd’s actions by walking down the hill didn’t amount to a surrender because he still had knives in his possession. He said Boyd was told to drop the knives and get on the ground, which he didn’t do.
“Just because you are crazy … doesn’t mean you don’t have to obey officers’ commands,” Bregman said.
Randi McGinn, a special prosecutor appointed to try the case, said Boyd was turning from the officers to get on the ground when they opened fire.
For three days, prosecutors have called police witnesses and various experts as they laid out their evidence. A crime scene analyst hired by the prosecution said in court Wednesday that Boyd was turning away from police when he was fatally shot.
Barie Goetz, the crime scene reconstructionist, said his analysis showed Boyd was turning to his left when he was shot in both arms by Sandy. Goetz said Boyd had turned around by the time Perez fired, with the bullet striking Boyd in the back.
“Mr. Boyd had started his turn when he was shot,” Goetz said.
Under cross-examination by Bregman, Goetz said the police K-9 officer was 8 feet from Boyd when Sandy opened fire. Goetz said he couldn’t tell what Sandy had seen through his scope before he started shooting.
Goetz had analyzed the on-body camera Perez was wearing. Earlier in court Wednesday, Albuquerque police Detective Nathan Render said another officer near the shooting didn’t turn in his lapel camera for days after the shooting.
Render, who processed evidence at the scene of the shooting, said investigators didn’t ask for the lapel camera officer Richard Ingram was wearing until more than a week after the shooting. By then, the camera had been formatted, which means it had been cleared of its data, and police never recovered any video of the shooting.
Ingram shot Boyd with a Taser shotgun and was one of the officers who was trying to arrest him when shots were fired.
“I believe it may have been missed that he had one,” Render said on the witness stand.
Render said Albuquerque police officers involved in use-of-force incidents are required to turn over their lapel cameras to investigators. Perez gave investigators his camera 90 minutes after the shooting and never tried to interfere or hamper the investigation, Render said.
On Tuesday, APD Detective Geoff Stone said Sandy was wearing a camera at the time of the shooting, but it either wasn’t turned on or malfunctioned.
The video Perez made of the shooting showed that Boyd had gathered his belongings and agreed to walk down from the slope where he was camping illegally. That was when Sandy threw a stun grenade near him, Ingram shot him with a Taser and a police K-9 was sicced on Boyd, who was mentally ill.
Seconds later, after Boyd pulled out his knives, Perez and Sandy shot him.
The defense called its first witness late Wednesday.
Alexander Thickstun, who lives in the area, had called police once in February and again on March 16 because he saw Boyd illegally camping in the Albuquerque open space area east of Tramway. The day Boyd was shot, Thickstun filmed about an hour of the three-hour standoff leading up to the shooting and the shooting itself from his porch.
Thickstun said he first noticed Boyd at 1 a.m. on Feb. 27 when he heard Boyd yelling in the darkness and threatening to kill another man in the area.
“It was scary,” Thickstun said in court.