Saturday, October 23, 2010
Rally Protests Police Shootings
By Astrid Galvan
Journal Staff Writer
About 75 people showed up outside Albuquerque police headquarters Friday to protest the dramatic increase in officer-involved shootings this year.
The protest was organized by Albuquerque Copwatch and Vecinos United, two police watchdog organizations.
"I'm here in protest of the massive police abuse of power over the last year, and in honor of the lives that were lost," Liza Minno Bloom said.
Albuquerque police have shot 12 people this year, eight of whom have died. The last shooting was on Monday in Tucumcari, where APD was asked to assist State Police in a stand-off situation. There were six shootings last year and five in 2008.
Police Chief Ray Schultz has said there's no explanation for the increase in shootings this year, but said that most of incidents involved assaults on officers and played out very quickly.
"We respect their First Amendment right to freedom of speech and they have every right to have their voices heard," spokeswoman Sgt. Trish Hoffman said of the protesters.
The protest, which was loud but peaceful, drew relatives of people killed by Albuquerque police. Many of them spoke to the crowd of demonstrators, who lined the sidewalk on Roma and Fourth Street holding signs and white carnations.
Kenneth Ellis II held a picture of his son, 25-year-old Kenneth Ellis III, who was killed by police in January in what officials said was a "suicide by cop."
According to police, Ellis was holding a handgun during a standoff with police in Northeast Albuquerque on Jan. 13 when Det. Brett Lampiris-Tremba shot him after he allegedly threatened police.
Ellis was an Iraq war veteran who suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, his family has said.
"We want to bring awareness to the fact that law enforcement has to be held accountable for their actions on duty," Ellis said. "They tend to take fatal force a little to lightly."
Ellis, whose family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, said he was not "against the police."
"We need the police; they're a vital asset," he said.
Other demonstrators included Sylvia Fuentes, the mother of Len Fuentes, who was shot and killed by APD this summer. She described her son's ordeal and questioned why police did not handle the July 26 incident better.
"It didn't matter that he was mentally ill," Fuentes said. "Something has to change."