ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A police training expert called by the defense said Thursday that there was no evidence James Boyd was surrendering at the time he was fatally shot by two APD officers.
The expert was called in the fourth day of the preliminary hearing against Albuquerque police officer Dominique Perez and former detective Keith Sandy, who are facing second-degree murder or lesser offenses for shooting Boyd in the Sandia foothills in March 2014.
Ronald McCarthy, a former SWAT officer for the Los Angeles Police Department and a former police instructor, is an expert witness hired by the defense. He testified for several hours Thursday.
Under cross-examination by prosecutors, McCarthy said he has been an expert witness in about 200 cases and testified on behalf of the officers in all but a few of them.
“There was no indication that James Boyd was surrendering,” McCarthy said.
Signs of surrender include raising hands, getting on the ground or clearly stating an intent to give up, he said.
A video recording of the shooting made by an on-body camera Perez was wearing showed Boyd had gathered his belongings and was walking down the slope where he was camping illegally. McCarthy said Boyd wasn’t surrendering because he still had knives in his possession and easily could have pulled them on officers who approached him.
As Boyd was walking, police threw a flash bang grenade at him, sent a police dog and shot him with a Taser. Those less-lethal tactics were ineffective, and Sandy and Perez shot Boyd when a police K-9 officer was about 8 feet from Boyd. Prosecutors have said not only was Boyd calm while walking, but he was turning from officers and going to the ground when he was shot.
McCarthy said the Taser wasn’t effective because Boyd was wearing several layers of clothes. The effects of the flash bang were diminished because it landed next to a rock near Boyd, he said. In earlier testimony, other police officers said the Taser shocked the dog, stopping it from biting Boyd.
“My opinion is that (Perez and Sandy were) appropriate in using deadly force,” he said.
McCarthy said under cross-examination that he makes about $60,000 to $70,000 a year as an expert witness.
Prosecutors raised questions about a PowerPoint presentation McCarthy made to instruct officers on use of force that included a cartoon showing officers joking about trying to get provoked so they can use force. The presentation ends with a picture of a soldier holding a mounted machine gun on the top of a Humvee and the quote: “Only those that have put their life on the line get to second-guess a soldier.”
Attorneys argued until the close of court Thursday whether to allow another defense expert, psychologist Bill Lewinski, to testify in the case.
Special prosecutor Randi McGinn said in a motion filed Wednesday that Lewinski isn’t qualified to be an expert on the issues in the case and is an “advocate for police officers who have shot a person under suspicious circumstances.”
“If permitted to testify, Lewinski will attempt to disguise his advocacy in a cloak what other experts have called pseudoscience and will attempt to bolster the testimony of officer-defendants with scientific-sounding terminology that, when examined closely, is based on agenda-driven research that lacks any of the characteristics of valid science,” the motion states.
Lewinski said in court that he has been an expert in more than 100 cases throughout the country. He was the subject of a report in The New York Times earlier this month that said he often testifies on behalf of officers involved in controversial shootings and provides law enforcement officers with training that some officials are troubled by.
Court opened Thursday with Alexander Thickstun, who lives in the area where Boyd was shot, speaking about calling police on Boyd once in February and again the day he was shot because Boyd had been camping illegally.
Thickstun said he heard Boyd yelling irrational things at another man in the middle of the night, and he didn’t want Boyd near his family.
McGinn asked Thickstun why he didn’t call a city hotline to try to get Boyd mental health services.
“I didn’t know that these services exist,” he said. “I’m a neighbor. I didn’t know of these resources out there.”
Thickstun was the first defense witness after the special prosecutors appointed to try the officers completed their case against the officers on Wednesday and Pro Tem Judge Neil Candelaria denied a defense motion to dismiss the charges.
Luis Robles, Perez’s attorney, said that in a addition to Lewinski, the defense still plans to call police officers Richard Igram, Jim Fox and Scott Weimerskirch.
Ingram and Weimerskirch were on the arrest team trying to take Boyd into custody when he was shot. Fox is a sergeant supervising SWAT team members.
A police detective who processed the evidence in the case said Ingram was wearing a lapel camera at the time of the shooting but investigators didn’t ask him for it until about a week after the shooting. By that time it had been cleared of data.
Robles said he expects the hearing to last all of Friday before taking a weeklong break because of a scheduling conflict before starting back up the week of Aug. 17. After the preliminary hearing, Candelaria will decide whether to send the case to trial.