Albuquerque, NM- Albuquerque officers Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy were charged with murder on Monday in the shooting of homeless camper James Boyd.
Boyd, who had been accused by police of illegally camping in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains, was ultimately shot and killed by Sandy and Perez, a SWAT team member, on March 16th, 2014 during a standoff lasting several hours. The shooting provoked national criticism of the Albuquerque Police Department after video was released that appeared to show Boyd, who was in possession of two small knives, surrendering just before he was shot by Sandy and Perez. The video is available below (graphic content):
Audio from Sandy’s dash camera had also been released of Sandy’s conversation with State Police Officer Chris Ware regarding Boyd from the scene of the standoff before the shooting:
Sandy: What do they have you guys doing here?
Ware: I don’t know. The guy asked for state police.
Sandy: Who asked?
Ware: I don’t know.
Sandy: For this f***ing lunatic? I’m going to shoot him in the penis with a shotgun here in a second.
Ware: You got uh, less-lethal?
Sandy: I got…
Ware: The Taser shotgun?
Sandy: Yeah. Ware: Oh, I thought you guys got rid of those?
Sandy: ROP’s got one…here’s what we’re thinking, because I don’t know what’s going on, nobody has briefed me…
The APD denied that Sandy said “I’m going to shoot him in the penis with a shotgun here in a second” and claimed he had said “I’m going to shoot him with a Taser shotgun in a second”. However, the APD’s denial conflicted with Sandy’s acknowledgement to investigators that he had made the “shoot him in the penis” remark as a joke. “Just kind of locker room banter,” Sandy had told investigators. “[I] just told him, you know, ‘don’t worry; I’ll shoot him in the pecker with this and call it good.’”
Sandy abruptly recanted that admission after a break during the interview.
Second District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said Monday that Perez and Sandy each face one open murder count. In an open murder charge, prosecutors may push for either first-degree or second-degree murder charges.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, the case was not brought before a grand jury and Brandenburg “filed the counts via criminal information, which allows her to charge the officers without presenting evidence to a grand jury.” The FBI is currently investigating the shooting, but it’s unknown if the officers will face federal charges.
Albuquerque has become well known for excessive force used by police. In May of last year, more than 40 residents effectively shut down a city council meeting and attempted to serve Police Chief Gorden Eden with a warrant for a citizen’s arrest while calling for the APD to stop its violent tactics. APD Officer Jeremy Dear was fired last month for repeatedly refusing to use his body camera; in the last instance of Dear either failing to turn on or disabling his camera, he had fatally shot 19-year-old Mary Hawkes.
A Justice Department letter from April 2014 informed the APD- that had killed 23 people and wounded 14 over a four-year period- that its department “engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment” and the Justice Department later demanded reforms to correct the APD’s practices. Last October, the Justice Department and APD reached an agreement to engage in “wide-ranging reforms”.