The city of Albuquerque has agreed to pay $5 million to the family of James Boyd, a man with a long history of mental illness who was killed by Albuquerque police last year.
“For far too long, the Albuquerque Police Department fostered policies and practices that failed officers and, in turn, the community. The policies and practices created an atmosphere where the officers most indifferent to human life could recklessly interact with residents, killing them without significant concern or consequence. As a result, even the most well-intentioned officers did not, and could not, police constitutionally within APD. Because the killing of James Matthew Boyd was so needless, so preventable, finally, Albuquerque and department officials could not continue to turn away,” read a statement issued by the family’s attorney, Shannon Kennedy.
On March 16th, 2014, 41 officers were sent to the Sandia foothills to assist in the detainment of Boyd, who was allegedly illegally camping. At the time of the incident, Boyd was carrying two knives. After a standoff lasting over four hours, Boyd appeared to agree to leave his campsite before he was shot and killed by APD officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez.
According to KOB 4, police had created a plan for detaining Boyd: “The plan outlined by K-9 Officer Scott Weimerskirch was to use a flash-bang grenade to distract Boyd, then deploy the police dog. But officers Keith Sandy, Dom Perez and Richard Ingram understood that plan differently. They thought the flash-bang would be deployed, followed by the use of a Taser shotgun, then the police dog.”
The plan went off course as the grenade “didn’t really affect [Boyd] as it should have,” according to Sandy. The police dog turned away from Boyd, and use of a Taser on Boyd achieved little due to the layers of clothing he was wearing.
Boyd’s autopsy revealed that he had been shot on the left side of his lower back and both upper arms. His toxicology report showed no illegal drugs or alcohol in his system.
The lawsuit filed by Boyd’s family was sharply critical of Sandy’s history as a police officer. The complaint alleged that before joining APD, Sandy had been fired as a state police officer for being paid as private security while on the clock as an officer. The Albuquerque Journal reported on Sandy’s firing for that incident in 2007.
The complaint noted that Sandy was initially hired as a civilian employee by APD due to his termination for fraud and had been deemed unfit to carry a gun, which KRQE had also noted last March. Sandy went on to advance within the department and eventually became an officer in various tactical units including the “Repeat Offender Project (ROP), the plainclothes detective team that is supposed to go after the worst of Albuquerque’s worst criminals,” according to KRQE. The lawsuit claimed that Sandy was promoted from a civilian employee to an undercover officer, and finally promoted to a plainclothes detective “without passing a psychological ‘fit for duty’ screening evaluation.”
The suit, which requested several changes to the department in its prayer for relief, also included a determination from the Department of Justice which found that APD engaged in violating the constitutional rights of citizens through excessive force.
Sandy and Perez were charged with second-degree murder in June. The case is currently pending.
The Truth In Media Project has been following multiple reports of police brutality and excessive use of force nationwide, including in Albuquerque. To read more about alleged police abuse in Albuquerque, click here. For more information about the James Boyd case, click here.