Albuquerque, NM- A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for August 3rd for Albuquerque police officer Dominique Perez and former APD officer Keith Sandy, who are facing charges for allegedly murdering a homeless camper. A judge will listen to testimony and decide whether or not there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.
The hearing had been originally scheduled for May 18th, but lawyers for both of the accused officers filed motions to reschedule. Luis Robles, Perez’s lawyer, filed a motion last month to vacate the May hearing so that Robles could go on a scheduled vacation with his family. Sam Bregman, Sandy’s lawyer, filed a motion to reschedule so that he could have more time to prepare for the hearing.
Perez and Sandy were charged by Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg in January for the March 2014 shooting of James Boyd, a mentally ill man who was fatally struck by bullets fired by Sandy and Perez during an hours-long standoff. Sandy and Perez were among several officers involved in attempting to remove Boyd from the foothills of the Sandia Mountains where he was reported to be illegally camping.
(RELATED: Two Albuquerque Officers Charged With Murder Of Homeless Camper)
According to Boyd’s autopsy report, he was struck three times: one bullet his his upper right arm which required amputation; one bullet, which caused the most damage and was identified as the cause of Boyd’s death, hit his “lower left back that passed through the lower abdomen and exited the left armpit before re-entering the upper left arm”; and one more bullet struck his upper left arm. Video from a helmet camera at the scene, which captured Boyd appearing to surrender just before he was shot, caused the APD to fall under further scrutiny as protests ensued around the city. Lapel video from Sandy was reportedly never found.
The Justice Department informed the APD a month after Boyd’s death that there was probable cause to believe that the police department was repeatedly engaging “in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.” Last May, protesters overtook a city council meeting and attempted to serve Police Chief Gorden Eden with a citizen’s arrest warrant in response to the findings of the report. The Justice Department and APD entered into an agreement to reform the police department’s practices last October.
Police dash cam audio that captured dialogue between Sandy and State Police Officer Chris Ware two hours before Boyd’s shooting sparked more outrage from citizens, as KOB-4 reported that in the audio recording Sandy had called Boyd a “f***ing lunatic” and said he was “going to shoot him in the penis with a shotgun here in a second.”
(RELATED: APD Reportedly Denied Officer’s “Shotgun” Comments)
In a statement, Bregman said Sandy “had not only the right, but the duty to defend a fellow officer from a mentally unstable, violent man wielding two knives. Keith did nothing wrong. To the contrary, he followed his training and probably saved his fellow officer’s life.” Robles said that Perez “has been called upon to make life-altering decisions while protecting Albuquerque citizens and his fellow officers. And having made one of those decisions, Officer Perez now faces an open count of murder. Regardless, I am confident that the facts will vindicate Officer Perez’s actions in this case.”
Both attorneys have showed concern over which officer is responsible for the fatal bullet that killed Boyd. Both officers had used the same department-issued ammunition.
In April, Brandenburg was disqualified from prosecuting the case due to reported conflict of interest related to an investigation of Brandenburg for alleged witness intimidation and bribery, and Randi McGinn was later appointed as a special prosecutor. McGinn said that three of the six shots that were fired by Sandy and Perez hit Boyd, and that the first two shots were fired by Sandy. McGinn has requested independent lab review seeking to determine which officer fired the shot that killed Boyd. McGinn “expects to announce her charging decision after the test results come back in a few weeks.”
Just before internal affairs began questioning him last November, Sandy retired, managing to secure his retirement pension. Perez is still employed by APD on administrative assignment.
The Truth In Media Project has been following multiple reports of alleged police brutality and excessive use of force nationwide, including in Albuquerque. For more information about alleged police abuse in Albuquerque, click here. For more information about the James Boyd case, click here.