A former Albuquerque SWAT officer who was fired after a judge ordered him to stand trial on murder charges in the shooting death of mentally ill homeless camper James Boyd has appealed his termination.
Police Chief Gorden Eden terminated officer Dominique Perez after a judge found probable cause that Perez and former detective Keith Sandy committed second-degree murder and lesser offenses when they fatally shot James Boyd in the Sandia foothills in March 2014.
Perez filed the appeal with the city’s personnel board last year, and a hearing is scheduled for March 1.
Shaun Willoughby, the president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, said the union and its attorney filed the appeal on Perez’s behalf and said Perez was entitled to the appeal under the collective bargaining agreement between police officers and the city.
“I think that Dominique Perez is going to be successful at getting his job back at APD,” Willoughby said. “We wish the city would take these cases on a case-by-case basis.”
In a letter last year to the city’s chief administrative officer, Rob Perry, APOA officials asked that the city review the discipline against Perez and reverse it, or schedule a formal appeal hearing. Willoughby said the city should have waited until after the criminal case has been adjudicated before deciding what discipline Perez should face.
A trial in the murder case is scheduled for August.
District Judge Alisa Hadfield, who is now presiding over the case, is considering where to have the trial. Prosecutors argued the case should be tried in Albuquerque while defense attorneys want the case moved to Las Cruces.
City Attorney Jessica Hernandez said in an email that Perez was fired for violating an Albuquerque police policy concerning criminal charges and city personnel rules and regulations.
An Albuquerque police operating procedure states that police officers can face discipline “up to termination” if they are indicted or have criminal charges formally filed against them for a felony or a misdemeanor crime.
Hernandez said the city will argue that the personnel board should uphold Perez’s termination.
In November, the same board reversed the city’s decision to terminate fired officer Jeremy Dear, who also had been involved in a fatal shooting. Dear, however, was fired because police said he repeatedly refused to follow orders to record all encounters with citizens with an on-body camera.
Dear said 19-year-old Mary Hawkes pointed a gun at him after a foot chase, but the shooting was not recorded on his lapel cam.
Perez was fired in October of last year, about two months after Pro Tem Judge Neil Candelaria ruled there was probable cause that Perez and Sandy committed a crime when they shot Boyd.
Boyd was illegally camping in an Albuquerque Open Space area east of Tramway when he allegedly pulled a knife on two armed, uniformed officers who approached him.
That prompted a hours-long standoff between Boyd and about 40 police officers who responded to the area. Sandy and Perez shot Boyd after a plan to take Boyd into custody backfired and Boyd pulled out two knives when he was less than 10 feet away from another police officer.
The shooting was recorded on Perez’s on-body camera and appears to show Boyd turning his back to the officers. It was widely aired on TV and the Internet, triggering protests.
Sandy retired in late 2014, before prosecutors announced that charges would be brought against the officers.
He is collecting a pension of about $37,700 annually, according to the New Mexico Public Employees Retirement Association.
Perez, who worked for Albuquerque police for nine years after serving in the Marines, was not eligible to retire.
District Attorney Kari Brandenburg announced charges against the officers in January 2015. Hadfield later removed Brandenburg’s office from the case at the request of defense lawyers, and attorney Randi McGinn was appointed as the special prosecutor.
The case was bound over for trial after a seven-day preliminary hearing in August 2015.