Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Officer Said His Job Is 'Human Waste Disposal'
By Jeff Proctor
Copyright © 2011 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer
An Albuquerque gang unit officer who shot and killed a suspect after a traffic stop last week had listed "human waste disposal" as his occupation on his Facebook page — drawing sharp criticism from the city's top cop.
Police Chief Ray Schultz said he was "disgusted" by the comment posted by Detective Trey Economidy III on the social networking website.
The post has since been removed, but Schultz said it will be part of an internal affairs investigation into the shooting.
"Obviously I'm very disappointed in the comments themselves and the nature of the comments," the chief said. "Honestly, I went from disappointed to disgusted. This puts the department in a very bad light.
"That said, I know Detective Economidy, and this is not the type of person he is. He wants to make a difference. But he clearly had a lapse in judgment here."
Reached by telephone, Economidy declined to comment.
Economidy, 31 and a seven-year veteran of the department, was on gang unit patrol around 8 p.m. Wednesday when he spotted 29-year-old Jacob Mitschelen driving near San Pedro and Kathryn SE, according to police.
Economidy pulled Mitschelen over for suspicious behavior in the parking lot of a strip mall, Schultz said. Mitschelen fled on foot and fell down as he was running. A gun fell out of Mitschelen's clothing, which he then picked up.
Economidy ordered him to drop it, but Mitschelen raised the gun at the officer, Schultz said. Economidy fired multiple times.
Mitschelen died several hours later at University of New Mexico Hospital.
Police say Mitschelen had two loaded magazines but that there was no bullet in the gun's chamber when he was shot.
Economidy was placed on standard three-day leave. An internal affairs investigation will parallel a criminal probe into the shooting.
Schultz said Economidy removed the Facebook post after a television reporter brought it to APD's attention.
"The post has no bearing on the incident itself, but it will be part of the IA investigation," he said. "Obviously it's not something we condone."
Law enforcement agencies across the country have been struggling with how to handle employee comments on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, Schultz said.
APD already has vague language in its standard operating procedures about what's appropriate information to post, he said.
But as a result of Economidy's post, the chief said, a more specific policy is in the works.
"We're working on something that doesn't infringe on someone's First Amendment rights, but at the same time will clarify what's OK in terms of the course and scope of employment and other things," Schultz said.
The Journal received several letters from Mitschelen's family and friends after the shooting.
Each of the letter-writers took local media to task for pointing out Mitschelen's criminal record.
Mitschelen "was not the man the media and police are making him out to be," one letter reads. "His friends, co-workers and clients of the landscaping business in which he was employed for the past three years, know him as a loving and involved father to a 3-year-old daughter, a great employee, well-liked by those with whom he worked and lived. He never had an easy life, but was making a better life for himself and his daughter."
Online court records show Mitschelen had a lengthy criminal history, including two DWI arrests; a 2005 arrest for negligent use of a deadly weapon; possession of marijuana; domestic violence; and aggravated assault.
Wednesday's was the first officer-involved shooting of the year for APD. Officers shot 14 people last year, killing nine of them.