Unlike prosecutors in Missouri, and New York City, a New Mexico prosecutor is bypassing the grand jury process in order to charge two cops with murder.
KRQE reports that District Attorney Kari Brandenburg will file murder charges against SWAT team officer Dominique Perez, and former detective Keith Sandy, for the shooting of James Boyd last March. Boyd was a homeless man who also suffered from schizophrenia. He was shot to death by Albuquerque police during a standoff. The shooting was captured on one officer’s helmet camera.
Despite the fact that Albuquerque has one of the highest rates of police shootings in the country, this will be the first time that an Albuquerque police officer has ever been charged for shooting someone in the line of duty. KRQE says that there have been 27 fatal shootings by police there since 2010.
Perez and Sandy will be charged by “criminal information,” according to KRQE. That process is permitted under New Mexico law, but is rarely used in Bernalillo County, where Albuquerque is located. Charging a suspect using criminal information allows the prosecutor to bypass the grand jury and issue charges directly. KRQE says that charging the officers in this way will likely result in a hearing in state District Court, where a judge will determine whether there is probable cause to bind one or both officers over for murder.
The officers could be charged with anything from manslaughter to first degree murder.
According to the KRQE report, the officers will be charged with “open counts” of murder. This will allow a jury to consider charges anywhere from voluntary manslaughter, to first degree murder.
The incident for which Perez and Sandy are being charged, took place on March 16, 2014. James Boyd had been camping in an area just east of the city. Police responded to a call from a resident about Boyd and became engaged in a four hour standoff. During the standoff, Boyd apparently brandished two knives on several occasions. Near the end of the encounter, it appears from the video that Boyd is preparing to comply with officers. He appears to be bending down to pick up his belongings when one officer throws a “flash-bang” grenade at him. That is followed by a K-9 officer releasing his dog on Boyd. Boyd then pulls the knives again, and as he turns away from the officers, two of them fire three rounds each from their assault rifles. Boyd was struck in the back. He later died in the hospital.
The charges in this case come as Albuquerque is waiting for a federal judge to approve a plan that would address the U.S. Department of Justice’s finding that there is widespread use of excessive force by Albuquerque police. According to KRQE, that finding capped an 18-month investigation which found that there is an “over aggressive culture” in the Albuquerque police force, and that the leadership has failed to address problems.
Here is a report, from KQRE:
H/T: Raw Story | Featured image: via screen shot