ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Last summer, 10 officers shot at a man fleeing from them in an SUV after the officers thought the suspect had run into their lieutenant, who was actually knocked down by a falling fence, according to police video and reports released Friday.
There hasn’t been another Albuquerque police shooting in recent memory in which that many officers fired their weapons, said Celina Espinoza, a police spokeswoman. The department is implementing reforms under a consent decree with the Department of Justice that aims to curb the number of police shootings, including shooting at moving vehicles.
Rodrigo Garcia, the 20-year-old suspect, was hit seven times, including once in the head. He had part of his brain removed after the shooting, according to court documents.
Espinoza said the department has no plans to pursue charges against Garcia because of the severity of his injuries.
Joe Kennedy, an Albuquerque attorney representing Garcia and his family, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday. But he previously said in an interview with the Journal that he plans to file a lawsuit in connection with the shooting that alleges civil rights violations.
Garcia was wanted on charges of vehicle theft, felon in possession of a firearm and drug charges. Police reports indicate that he drove a vehicle into a marked police car the day before the shooting and eluded officers.
The next afternoon, May 29, police cornered Garcia in a yard in southwest Albuquerque near 62nd and Gonzales.
Investigative reports and video released Friday show that as more than 10 officers surrounded Garcia, he drove an SUV in reverse into a tree, then drove forward and crashed into both a chain link fence and a marked police car.
As he struck the fence, Albuquerque police Lt. Michelle Campbell was knocked over as it fell, and she discharged her firearm once.
According to police reports, officers at the scene told investigators they thought Campbell had been run over.
Police fired a volley as Garcia drove away. He then stopped the Tahoe and put it in reverse. As it moved toward police, there was another volley of police gunfire.
Investigators found 48 bullets and bullet fragments in the Tahoe. There was no firearm in the SUV.
Garcia was shot seven times. He had gunshot wounds to his head, shoulder, both hands, ear and right leg, according to police reports.
Police previously said that 10 officers opened fire: Campbell and Southwest Area Command field services bureau officers Andrew Wickline, Dain Symes, Victor Bustillos, Toby Gallegos, Justice Bowe, Christopher Keeling and Matthew Murphy and auto theft detectives Raymond Marquez and Armando Hernandez.
After the shooting, a SWAT standoff ensued while Garcia was still in the vehicle. Eventually, SWAT officers threw a flash bang grenade at him, swarmed the Tahoe and removed him from it.
He was taken to University of New Mexico Hospital, where doctors told police that, although he survived, the injuries would severely affect his quality of life, according to the reports.
Albuquerque Police Department officers have been criticized for shooting at moving vehicles, including in the DOJ investigation.
The new use-of-force policy, which wasn’t in effect at the time of the shooting, prohibits officers from putting themselves in front of a moving vehicle and instead requires them to find cover. Only if an officer is in imminent danger and has no reasonable alternative can he or she shoot at a vehicle.