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DA clears 2 APD officers in 2014 shooting

In this image from 2014, officers cordoned off Second Street near Interstate 40 as they investigated an officer-involved shooting. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

In this image from 2014, officers cordoned off Second Street near Interstate 40 as they investigated an officer-involved shooting. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office announced Friday it won’t pursue criminal charges against two Albuquerque police officers who shot and killed a man near Second Street and Interstate 40 in 2014.

In this photo from 2014, Albuquerque police investigate the scene of a fatal officer-involved shooting near Second Street NW and Arvada. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

In this photo from 2014, Albuquerque police investigate the scene of a fatal officer-involved shooting near Second Street NW and Arvada. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Officers Brian Fuchs and Ryan Graves shot and killed Ralph Chavez, who they say had a bloody knife and yelled at officers to shoot him the night of May 22, 2014.

There’s no lapel video that clearly captures the shooting, according to documents released Friday by the District Attorney’s Office. Fuchs’ camera was not turned on and Graves’ camera was blocked by his uniform, though it captured audio of the incident.

According to the documents, Fuchs told investigators he was called to a possible rape on Second NW near I-40 that night and then found out a man who had a cut on his neck was at a nearby gas station.

Fuchs spotted the possible suspect – later identified as Chavez – walking south on Second. He went over to him and asked him to sit down, but Chavez refused. Fuchs said he then noticed Chavez was holding a bloody knife and pulled out his gun.

“Mr. Chavez started yelling ‘Shoot me! You’re going to have to shoot me!’ Fuchs told investigators, according to the documents.

Chavez started walking toward officers with the knife and Fuchs, who had been joined by officer Graves, began backing away from Chavez.

“When the officers reached the median, officer Fuchs felt he could not back up any more,” an investigator wrote in the documents. “Mr. Chavez had approached within about seven feet, had been possibly involved in a violent crime, was not obeying commands, and had a knife in his hand. Officer Fuchs felt he was in danger, as was Officer Graves.”

Both officers opened fire, killing Chavez.

Graves’ retelling of the events matched Fuchs’, according to the documents.

“Upon thorough review, it is clear that both officers Fuchs and Graves were performing their lawful duties as peace officers at the time of this shooting,” the DA’s report reads.

A sergeant who arrived at the scene soon after Graves said she saw Chavez advancing toward officers with a knife and went to her car to grab a less lethal weapon when Graves and Fuchs shot him.

Chavez’s toxicology report showed his blood alcohol content was 0.28 when he was killed.

All officer-involved shootings are reviewed by the District Attorney, who decides whether the officers should face charges in the shooting or whether use of deadly force was justified.

Only one shooting case has ever led to charges against officers: the high-profile case of James Boyd, who was fatally shot in the Sandia foothills by APD officers in 2014.

The DA’s office has multiple officer-involved shooting cases still to review. Eighteen cases involving APD, most of which were shootings, but some of which were apparent suicides, have not yet been completed, according to District Attorney’s Office records. Some of those cases date back to 2013.

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