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Autopsy: Mitschelen Was Shot in the Back

By Jeff Proctor
Copyright © 2011, Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          Albuquerque police Detective Trey Economidy III shot Jacob Mitschelen twice in the back and once in the buttocks after a traffic stop last month, according to an autopsy report released Monday.
        Economidy told investigators he fired at Mitschelen, who died at the scene, when the suspect pointed a gun at him after a traffic stop.
        The APD gang unit officer said he pulled over a car Mitschelen was driving near San Pedro and Kathryn SE about 8 p.m. on Feb. 9, but the 29-year-old Mitschelen got out of the vehicle and fled on foot.
        Mitschelen stumbled, and a gun fell out of his clothing, Economidy told investigators. Mitschelen picked up the gun and pointed it at Economidy, who fired several shots.
        Investigators later discovered there was no bullet in the chamber of the gun Mitschelen was carrying. Police said, however, that he had two full magazines on him.
        The autopsy report by the Office of the Medical Investigator said the gunshot wounds were to Mitschelen's left upper back, left mid-back and left buttock. It said the shots were fired from "indeterminate range."
        Mitschelen suffered damage to his pelvis, ribs, lungs, stomach and small intestine, according to the autopsy report.
        APD spokeswoman Trish Hoffman said the report's findings are "not a surprise" to detectives.
        "The autopsy is consistent with (Economidy's) statements," she said.
        Economidy is on desk duty after investigators learned that he may not have qualified for use of the .45-caliber handgun he used to shoot Mitschelen — and because APD officials are investigating comments by officers on social media websites, including one by Economidy in which he listed his occupation as "human waste disposal."
        Prior stop questioned
        Economidy told investigators he stopped Mitschelen on Feb. 9 for an expired license plate, according to Police Chief Ray Schultz.
        Hoffman said Monday that the Washington plate on the vehicle was, indeed, expired.
        A local civil rights attorney also questioned Economidy's story concerning an earlier stop, when he pulled over Kenneth Ellis early last year. Minutes after the stop, Ellis, 25, was dead from a gunshot fired by another APD officer, Bret Lampiris-Tremba.
        Economidy told investigators he stopped Ellis, an Iraq war veteran, in January 2010 because an electronic check of Ellis' license plate showed it didn't match the 1975 Corvette it was on.
        Frances Crockett, who along with two other attorneys is representing Ellis' family in a wrongful death lawsuit, says the stop never should have happened.
        Motor Vehicle Division records obtained by Crockett and Ellis' family show "there was absolutely no problem with the registration, the plates or (Ellis') license," Crockett said in an interview.
        Moreover, about a month before the shooting, Ellis was stopped by a different Albuquerque police officer, given a ticket for a taillight violation and sent on his way, she said.
        "It was the same plate, the same car," Crockett said, "and there was no problem."
        Assistant City Attorney Kathy Levy said APD stands by Economidy's stop of Ellis.
        "This matter is in litigation, and we believe the stop was lawful," Levy said.
        Police have described Ellis' death as "suicide by cop."
        Ellis had a gun pointed at his own head during much of the encounter, authorities have said.
        After stopping Ellis, Economidy took a position behind a gasoline pump and was shouting at Ellis to drop his gun, Crockett said. Economidy also had a rifle trained on Ellis.
        But it was Lampiris-Tremba who fired.
        Ellis was the second of 14 people shot by APD officers in 2010; 10 of those were fatal. Mitschelen was the first — and so far, only — person shot by APD this year.
        In the Ellis lawsuit, Crockett and other attorneys allege the city was responsible for "wrongful death due to battery and negligent battery" and "negligent training, supervision and retention."
        The attorneys have filed a request seeking login information for the Facebook accounts of the 57 officers there the day Ellis was killed. Police had flooded the neighborhood where the shooting took place as part of an operation to catch car thieves.
        Crockett said she believes access to the Facebook pages would provide a more "candid" look into the way the officers' viewed Ellis' death.
        Levy has said she will file an objection to the motion.

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