ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The officer who listed his occupation as “human waste disposal” on Facebook within days of fatally shooting a suspect is named as a defendant, along with the city of Albuquerque, in a federal lawsuit alleging civil rights violations and wrongful death.
The lawsuit was filed in October by Krystal Bell, personal representative of Jacob Adam Mitschelen, who was shot to death after a Southeast Heights traffic stop in February by Albuquerque police Detective Byron “Trey” Economidy III.
Mitschelen, 29, was pulled over for an expired plate while he was driving near Kathryn and San Pedro SE. He got out of his vehicle and began running. Economidy told investigators Mitschelen stumbled, and a gun fell out of his clothing. Mitschelen picked it up and pointed it at the officer, who then fired several shots, Economidy told investigators.
Subsequent investigation, however, found no bullet in the chamber of Mitschelen’s gun, although he had two magazines on him. An autopsy report by the Office of the Medical Investigator said the gunshot wounds were to Mitschelen’s left upper back, midback and buttock, fired from indeterminate range.
Reporters found a posting on a Facebook page called “Fans of the Albuquerque Police Department” and learned Economidy was not qualified on the .45-caliber handgun he used in the shooting.
Economidy was suspended for 32 hours as discipline and was transferred from the Gang Unit to Field Services.
Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz launched a departmentwide probe of officers’ activities on social media websites after learning about Economidy’s post, and he is developing a new social media policy.
A pending lawsuit against APD seeks access to Facebook pages of officers. That lawsuit was filed in March by civil rights attorneys Paul Kennedy, whose firm represents Bell, and Frances Crockett, who represents the family of Kenneth Ellis, who died in another fatal APD shooting.
The lawsuit over Mitschelen’s death takes note of Economidy’s posting about “human waste disposal” and alleges his use of deadly force was excessive, unreasonable and unnecessary to seize Mitschelen and “did not serve any legitimate law-enforcement objective under the circumstances.”
The lawsuit, assigned to U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera, contends the city has a duty to the public to use reasonable care in hiring, training and supervising its police officers and has failed to do so. The city has not yet filed an answer, but Herrera on Wednesday ordered a response be filed by Dec. 21.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal