Jeremy Robertson, 33, was shot four times as he was scaling a fence in an attempt to escape detectives dressed in shorts and T-shirts who worked in the department’s now-disbanded Repeat Offender Project. They were trying to arrest him in connection with a parole violation in an auto theft case, according to the lawsuit.
Police said a gun was found near Robertson’s body.
The suit cited the following factors that led to the shooting – plainclothes detectives serving arrest warrants, expired and ineffective less lethal weapons, the career histories of the involved officers and the practice of allowing Albuquerque police to investigate themselves.
“The city continues to defend and evaluate lawsuits on a case-by-case basis, which sometimes includes reaching a settlement,” City Attorney Jessica Hernandez said in a statement. “Once the Robertson lawsuit has been served and received by the legal department, we will thoroughly review and evaluate the complaint.”
Laura Schauer Ives, an attorney representing Robertson’s family, said a less-lethal Taser weapon used during the arrest attempt was three years past its expiration date and was ineffective, leading officers to then use deadly force.
Albuquerque police also used an expired Taser weapon in the fatal shooting of James Boyd, according to the lawsuit. Two officers are now facing second-degree murder charges for that shooting.
As Robertson fled from a gas station, ROP detectives chased him through the streets near Central and Eubank before SWAT officers Ramon Ornelas and Anthony Sedler each shot Robertson with their rifles as he was climbing a fence. They had been called to the scene by ROP Detective Russell Carter.
The lawsuit said that Carter has fired his weapons in the line of duty eight times, killing people twice. Ornelas has been involved in two shootings and also was the officer who shot Boyd with bean bags after he had been fatally wounded. Sedler has been involved in three fatal shootings.
The three officers “are representative of a culture of aggression at APD, emboldened by city policy makers’ failure to adopt adequate policies, provide adequate training, screen officers for placement on specialized units and discipline officers who utilize excessive force,” the suit states.
In 2011, Sedler shot and killed Chris Hinz. A grand jury investigating that shooting recommended that a different agency review Albuquerque police policies that govern how they investigate police shootings. The grand jury didn’t exonerate or recommend charges against Sedler.
Kayla Anderson, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office, said in an email that “it is believed” the district attorney informed then-Albuquerque police Chief Ray Schultz of the grand jury’s recommendation. She said prosecutors didn’t have jurisdiction to use the recommendation.
Albuquerque police currently lead investigations into its officers who shoot people. But an APD policy calls for officers from State Police, Bernalillo County and Rio Rancho to have some role in the investigations.
The lawsuit, filed in state district court last week, is seeking damages for Robertson’s family.
Ives said another goal of the lawsuit is to create a new police policy that would prohibit officers from serving arrest warrants in plain clothes.
“It creates a dangerous situations because the officers look like anybody else,” she said. “They are just regular guys with guns.”