An afternoon at Hooters and a rubdown at a “hole-in-the-wall” Chinese massage parlor were on Albuquerque police officer Jeremy Dear’s agenda two days after he shot and killed 19-year-old Mary Hawkes, a suspected car thief, during a foot chase in the Southeast Heights.
Those activities after the shooting, in which Dear said Hawkes had pointed a gun at him, came to light in a series of depositions taken as part of a lawsuit Hawkes’ family has brought against the city.
The statements under oath offer a glimpse into what Dear and another officer present the night of the shooting did when they were on standard administrative leave after a police shooting. Meanwhile, police union officials confirmed officers are still reimbursed up to $500 by the union to use for vacations and other ways to decompress after being involved in a shooting.
Dear eventually was fired for repeated failure to turn on his lapel camera in a variety of incidents, including the Hawkes shooting. He appealed and won reinstatement but the city appealed to District Court. Dear is not working as an APD officer while the city’s appeal is pending, and the District Attorney’s Office has not decided whether to file criminal charges against him in the Hawkes shooting case.
The revelations regarding the trip to Hooters and a massage parlor didn’t sit well with the Hawkes family.
“We pray for and believe in the good officers, but we feel there are still some officers on the department that are morally bankrupt,” said Maryalice Hawkes, Mary Hawkes’ mother. “It was just like (the officers) have no respect for life in general.”
Officer Sonny Molina said in a deposition that two days after the incident, he took Dear out for a day on the town to keep his mind off the April 21, 2014, shooting, which occurred less than two weeks after the U.S. Department of Justice accused APD of having a “culture of aggression” and a pattern of violating people’s rights through the excessive use of force.
Molina often worked as Dear’s partner and was involved in the investigation into Hawkes’ death. He also was Dear’s “buddy officer” and sat with him in a police car after the shooting.
The next day, Molina and his wife met Dear and his girlfriend in Santa Fe. Dear was there for a seminar for officers who have been involved in shootings and their spouses. Molina and Dear went to Hooters and got massages in Albuquerque the next day, according to depositions in the case.
“I took him to go – you know, help keep his mind off of everything, so we went to go eat and then we went for a massage after,” Molina said, according to a deposition transcript obtained by the Journal.
Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, said the psychological seminar in Santa Fe was scheduled in advance for officers who have been involved in shootings and their families.
“These officers are not trained assassins or ninjas; these incidents weigh heavy in the hearts of officers and their families,” Willoughby said.
Albuquerque attorney Shannon Kennedy, who represents the Hawkes family, said the officers’ actions reflect cultural problems within the department.
“To take the life of a 19-year-old girl and then go get a Chinese massage and go to Hooters, that’s hinged with real misogyny and a real disrespect to women,” Kennedy said in an interview. “I think it’s a reflection of a department that is morally bankrupt.”
Tom Grover, Dear’s attorney and a former APD officer, said his client was just moving on from a stressful shooting by going out with his friend. He said officers don’t celebrate police shootings.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a case of spiking the football by officers,” he said.
Dear, who joined the department in 2007, is scheduled to give a deposition in the case next month.
DOJ reform process
Albuquerque police, who have been involved in more than 50 shootings since 2010, are putting in place a series of reforms to address the problems identified by the DOJ.
The city reached a settlement in the case that allowed police to make changes without admitting to the accusations made against it and its officers.
There was earlier criticism when news reports surfaced in 2012 that the police union was offering officers up to $500 so they could decompress and take a vacation after being involved in a shooting.
Willoughby said the union still reimburses officers if they need to recover from critical incidents, which include police shootings.
“Yes, we still offer that and we will continue to offer that,” he said.
Grover said the vast majority of officers do everything they can to avoid being involved in shootings, which are dangerous, stressful and bring scrutiny to officers.
“The last thing on an officer’s mind is hoisting a beer up in celebration of a person who got shot,” he said.
APD Chief Gorden Eden said during his deposition that he wasn’t aware Dear and Molina went to a massage parlor after the shooting, but he said it may be a policy violation.
“It’s hard for us to regulate off-duty conduct, but that’s not the conduct that I would expect from any employee. Again, I don’t know which Chinese parlor it was. I don’t know if it’s legitimate, but personally it bothers me,” Eden testified. “Under our new rules that we’re trying to get passed, frequenting those places would be a major policy violation.”
The chief did not comment further Wednesday.
Eden fired Dear in December 2014 after an internal affairs investigation found he habitually failed to turn on his camera despite specific orders to record every contact with citizens.
Dear appealed to the city’s personnel board, which reversed Eden’s decision and ordered that Dear get his job back. The board said there was no clear policy outlining how often police officers have to record interactions with citizens. The city appealed the board’s decision to state District Court, where it is pending.
Dear is not working for the department as the case proceeds. If he gets his job back, he will be able to collect his salary for the time since he was fired.
Police said Dear was first told to record all encounters with citizens after getting a high number of citizen complaints and use-of-force incidents. He was placed on a 45-day reassignment in which he searched pawnshops for stolen items and he was then told to record everything when he was sent back to the field, according to court documents.
One of the use-of-force cases led to a lawsuit against Dear and Molina, who allegedly used excessive force on a man in Downtown Albuquerque. The case was settled for $90,000.
Despite those orders, a review of his lapel camera data found he didn’t record calls he was on about half the time. The review came during an internal affairs investigation that was launched after the shooting but targeted only Dear’s lapel camera use.
Molina was arrested about a month after the shooting on charges of battery against a household member in a domestic violence case. The case was ultimately dismissed, and Molina was ordered to take an ethics class. Molina is still with the department.