With Cop Charges, Albuquerque DA Aims for More Transparency Than Ferguson, NYPD

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With Cop Charges, Albuquerque DA Aims for More Transparency Than Ferguson, NYPD

Two Albuquerque police officers shown on video fatally shooting a homeless man last year will now face murder charges in connection with the incident.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg announced the filing of a criminal information sheet against Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy, both Albuquerque police officers, for the shooting death of 38-year-old James Boyd last March. The death was captured on a body camera worn by a different police officer.

The video revealed a distraught Boyd confronting police officers from several agencies in the Sandia Mountains on March 16. Boyd, who suffered from a mental illness, appeared to be surrendering to police when he was shot multiple times at close range.

The tape received a large amount of attention after it was uploaded online shortly after the shooting. The footage prompted a wave of anti-police brutality marches in Albuquerque and elsewhere, some of which were later reignited following the deaths of two unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City later — both incidents resulted in no formal charges against officers involved.

Read more: Albuquerque Sent Officers with Abuse Claims to Anti-Police Brutality March

Brandenburg said she opted to file criminal information documents against the two officers instead of empaneling a grand jury to ensure that the case was “totally transparent.”

“Unlike Ferguson and New York City, people will see the evidence and hear the witnesses,” Brandenburg said.

Brandenburg recently found herself the target of an Albuquerque police investigation stemming from an unrelated incident involving her son, who was arrested last on burglary charges. For months, detectives have attempted to drum up a bribery case against Brandenburg for allegedly paying off victims of her son’s crimes in an attempt to coerce them not to pursue charges.

Detectives found Brandenburg reimbursed at least one burglary victim, but the evidence fell short of suggesting the district attorney was involved in any conspiracy, cover-up or act of intimidation. After sifting through volumes of electronic messages and other documents, detectives tabled their investigation against Brandenburg, but re-opened the case after the district attorney announced her intention to pursue murder charges against the officers involved in the Boyd incident.

Information uncovered by Albuquerque television station KRQE-TV suggested Albuquerque detectives were driven by a desire to retaliate against Brandeburg. According to tapes unearthed by KRQE, detectives admitted the case against Brandenburg was “super weak,” but that their investigation nonetheless had the ability to “destroy” the district attorney’s career.

Though the case was weak, a detective handed over their investigation to the New Mexico state attorney general’s office in December along with a letter that said Albuquerque police had probable cause to suspect Brandenburg intimidated and bribed a witness — an accusation that would carry felony criminal charges. The letter was delivered shortly after Brandenburg notified Albuquerque police officials of her intention to seek charges against two of their officers.

Read more: Why Did Police Secretly Film Peaceful Protesters?

Sandy, who retired last year, said through his attorney of record that he intends to fight the charges laid out by Brandenburg on Monday.

“We plan on clearing his name through the judicial process now that the district attorney has made the bad decision to drag him through this process,” Sandy’s attorney Sam Bregman told reporters Monday, adding that Sandy’s actions “probably saved” the life of another officer that day.

“The idea that he’s being criminally charged is disgusting,” Bregman said.

The shooting was one of dozens that triggered a Department of Justice (DOJ) inquiry into the Albuquerque Police Department’s use of force against civilians. Last year, the DOJ announced its investigation found a pattern of systemic abuses by Albuquerque officers, including several instances in which police unjustifiably used force in encounters with citizens, including at least one instance in which an officer’s use of a taser against a man who had doused himself with gasoline put other officers’ safety at risk.

Following the report, the DOJ said it had reached an agreement to overhaul the department’s use of force. The changes are expected to be fully implemented within the next four years.

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