ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s been over a year since undercover Albuquerque police officer Jacob Grant was grievously wounded by his lieutenant in a $60 drug bust gone horribly wrong.
On Thursday evening, the city released redacted lapel camera video recordings of how the shooting occurred and the chaos and emotion that erupted as officers realized Lt. Greg Brachle had emptied his personal handgun into one of their own.
Even with the city redactions, the intense video is marked by shrieks and obscenities as the terrible realization began to sink in. It is posted above, but be warned that it contains graphic content and language.
“I’m sorry, man,” Brachle says at one point. “I didn’t know it was you.”
“Jacob man, hang in there bro, I thought you were a bad guy,” he says later.
The video release came one day after the city settled a lawsuit Grant had brought against the city by agreeing to pay $6.5 million. Grant will also receive lifetime coverage for medical expenses and disability retirement.
“The community and Department are deeply affected by this tragedy,” Police Chief Gorden Eden said in a statement Thursday. “As hard as it is to watch and review this video, it is imperative we learn from it. We immediately upgraded undercover officers’ training and equipment following this operation and improved supervision, communication and our procedures.”
Grant and Detective Holly Garcia were working the drug sting Jan. 9, 2015. Garcia was driving an unmarked police car and had pulled into a McDonald’s parking lot near Central and Tramway.
At that point, Grant was in the back seat directly behind her, as was protocol, holding the two suspected drug dealers at gunpoint. Brachle had missed an earlier briefing, and his body camera shows him driving to the scene in his truck. His police radio is on, and detectives are heard describing what the two suspects are wearing and where they are sitting in the car.
The detectives were trying to buy $60 worth of methamphetamine. They each gave bust signals to let their fellow officers know to move in to make the arrests after Garcia parked the car.
“Bust signal, bust signal, bust signal” is heard over the radio, and Brachle drives to the scene, parks and gets out with his gun drawn.
Though the other undercover detectives approach the police car from the passenger side and start giving the suspects commands to surrender, Brachle opens the door where Grant is sitting on the rear driver’s side of the car.
“Gun, gun, gun,” Brachle yells at the sight of Grant, who has his weapon trained on the suspects.
Brachle fires twice, repositions himself, then shoots another six times into the vehicle, emptying his magazine filled with .45-caliber, hollow-point bullets.
Grant was shot eight times, and most of his vital organs were damaged. He has been through at least 13 surgeries, and his lawsuit said he will have medical problems for life.
“Oh … that was Jacob,” a stunned undercover officer says once he realizes Grant has been shot.
Brachle curses at himself as he appears to realize what he’s done.
“Are you OK?” Brachle asks Grant.
“No,” the wounded detective responds.
Brachle and his fellow officers pull Grant from the car. They start to pull his shirt off, and Brachle runs back to his truck and grabs a medical kit filled with chest seals used to treat open chest wounds in life-threatening situations, like battlefield wounds.
The officers start to examine Grant, looking for bullet wounds on which to place the chest seals.
“He got hit a lot,” Brachle says. “I’m sorry man.”
Brachle eventually pulls off his own vest, to which his camera was attached, and throws it under a nearby vehicle. It doesn’t record footage when the ambulance arrives and takes Grant to University of New Mexico Hospital, where he would start his long and ongoing recovery.
Sections of the video are redacted, and some images are blurred out. Celina Espinoza, a police spokeswoman, said images that showed undercover officers and vehicles, secret police tactics and Grant’s injuries were the only redactions.
Espinoza said Grant has been given copies of the video, too.
Brachle retired from the department last month, just days before the Police Oversight Board announced that it had reviewed the video and evidence of the shooting and recommended that Brachle be fired for violating numerous policies in the shooting.
Eden said he will still review the board’s recommendations and has yet to issue his own analysis of the shooting, detailing what went wrong and what mistakes were made.
On Wednesday, Eden said the department has already made several policy changes, especially for undercover operations, in the wake of the shooting.
Footage of the shooting and other evidence are being reviewed by District Attorney Kari Brandenburg’s office, which will determine if Brachle will be charged.
A video made by an officer’s on-body camera that showed the shooting of James Boyd has become a key piece of evidence in that case. Two former police officers are standing trial on murder charges.
Phil Sisneros, a spokesman for the district attorney, said there isn’t a timetable for when the office will reach a decision on Brachle. Prosecutors have been reviewing evidence since October.
“There’s no set timeframe we give ourselves,” he said. “Every case is different.”
There are at least 30 police shooting cases by Albuquerque police officers, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office deputies and deputy U.S. marshals in which the district attorney hasn’t officially decided if officers will be charged. Some of those shootings date back to 2013, according to the office’s records.
Sisneros didn’t provide an exact number of pending shooting cases the office has yet to review.