Recent Police Shootings in Albuquerque Draw Federal Investigation
An FBI probe into recent police shootings in Albuquerque may reveal much about how officers treat the city’s most vulnerable populations.
The U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into the 1,100-officer force following the March 16 fatal shooting of James Boyd, a 38-year-old homeless man who was camping in the Sandia foothills.
Boyd was killed after an hours-long standoff with police, during which he threatened to kill officers with a small knife. He died after officers fired stun guns, bean bags and six live rounds.
A helmet-camera video released by the police shows Boyd, who had a history of mental illness and claimed to be a federal agent, agreeing to walk down the mountain with the officers. But as he was gathering his things and taking a step forward, officers fired on him.
Hundreds of community members took to the streets two days later to protest that shooting and a history of police brutality. That same night, Albuquerque police shot and killed another man, Alfred Redwine, after he reportedly opened fire on officers at a public housing complex.
According to the Office of the Medical Investigator, Redwine was Native. His mother, Sandra Othole, joined a second protest on Sunday, March 30, which ended in chaos after community members spent more than 10 hours calling on the police chief and other city officials to resign.
Protestors threw gas canisters outside police headquarters and trapped police officers in a vehicle. In response, officers dressed in riot gear lobbed tear gas at the crowd.
Afterward, Othole told reporters her son’s death was unnecessary.
“They need other people to help train these officers more,” she said. “They need more and more training, they have to do something. There is too many killings.”
The federal investigation is the first criminal probe of the Albuquerque police, but it comes a year after the Justice Department launched a civil rights investigation into allegations of excessive force and a spike in police shootings. Since 2010, police have been involved in 37 shootings; 23 of those were fatal.
Critics say that’s way too many for a city of about 555,000 people.
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