ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Fired APD officers John Doyle and Robert Woolever have maintained they believed the suspect they were chasing Feb. 13 was armed and dangerous.
But they never searched the man for weapons after Doyle kicked him more than a dozen times while Woolever held him down in a Northeast Heights parking garage where they caught up with, subdued and handcuffed him.
In the end, that’s what cost them their jobs, Police Chief Ray Schultz told the Journal on Thursday.
The first thing APD officers are trained to do after they handcuff someone they believe is armed is to search them, Sgt. Rob Gibbs said.
“The last thing they should do is turn their backs on the suspect,” Schultz said.
That’s exactly what Doyle and Woolever did after Woolever got Nicholas Blume into cuffs: They walked a few steps away and did a belly bump.
Blume was not armed but did have a handgun in the truck he was driving before the foot chase, according to Doyle’s report.
Officially, Doyle and Woolever violated several of APD’s standard operating procedures, including truthfulness and violation of criminal law with regard to use of excessive force, Schultz said.
Woolever was negligent in his duty to intervene while another officer was using excessive force, Schultz said.
Neither Woolever nor Doyle could be reached for comment.
APD officials released surveillance video of the incident to the Journal late Tuesday after a public records request. It was posted on ABQjournal.com and has since appeared on news websites all over the country.
Murray Conrad, a former APD area commander who supervised the two officers at the time of the kicking incident and has since retired, found no wrongdoing by Doyle. He apparently did not investigate Woolever’s actions.
Conrad wrote in a report titled “Chain of Command Recommendations” that Doyle had been briefed prior to the kicking incident by an APD Gang Unit sergeant about Blume, who “had killed a police officer the day before” and was “affiliated with the Aryan Brotherhood,” a notorious prison gang.
Doyle determined the man he and Woolever were chasing was Blume, according to Conrad’s report.
Schultz does not dispute that the officers believed they were chasing Blume, but said Thursday that APD has not been able to confirm whether Blume was suspected of killing a police officer. Blume has not been charged in the death of any officer.
Besides, the chief said, a suspect’s criminal history plays only a part in how an officer decides to use force.
“You can’t let history overshadow the circumstances in front of you,” he said. “The standard remains reasonableness.”
Schultz also addressed the portion of the video that appears to show the two officers belly bumping.
“You can’t tell exactly what they’re doing, but you can make assumptions,” Schultz said. “They told me it was not a celebratory action, that it was a half-pat on the back, as if to say: ‘Are you OK?’ ”
Schultz listed several factors for the nine-month gap between the kicking incident and the firings.
First, it did not come to his attention until May. At that point, he assigned Sgt. Ryan Buckner of the APD Special Investigations Division to conduct a criminal investigation, which was overseen by the FBI.
That probe took a few months, the chief said, and Buckner’s findings were turned over to the District Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque and, later, to a special prosecutor in Torrance County.
From there, an Internal Affairs investigation began. It ended Wednesday when the officers were fired.
Blume, who has a long criminal history, was charged with auto theft, receiving a stolen firearm, being a felon in possession of a firearm and resisting arrest in connection with the incident.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal