Criminal Justice

Albuquerque officers are charged in shooting death of homeless man

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Two police officers in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have each been charged with a count of open murder in the March 2014 shooting death of a mentally ill homeless man recorded on helmet video.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said the officers—one of whom recently retired—will not be booked into jail until a preliminary hearing is held, the Albuquerque Journal reports. The open murder charge allows a judge to determine whether there is enough evidence to support any of three charges–first-degree murder, second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter, report the New York Times and the Associated Press.

Brandenburg said a preliminary hearing will allow for a public airing of the evidence.

The officers are charged in the shooting death of James Boyd, who was accused of illegal camping. During a standoff with police, Boyd brandished at least one of two knives, but he appeared to be complying with commands to leave when an officer throws a flash-bang grenade and another releases a police dog, the Albuquerque Journal says. At that point, Boyd pulls his knives again, appears to turn away from the officers, then is shot in the back as the two police officers each fire their guns.

The accused officers are Keith Sandy, who recently retired, and Dominique Perez.

Sandy’s lawyer, Sam Bregman, told the Albuquerque Journal that Brandenburg made a “terrible, terrible decision” when she charged the officers. “There is not one shred of evidence to support any … criminal intent on the part of Keith Sandy,” he said.

Perez’s attorney, Luis Robles, said in a statement that he is confident the facts will vindicate his client.

The Albuquerque Police Department reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department in October that will overhaul police use-of-force policies. The Justice Department had cited Boyd’s shooting in an April report that found “a pattern of systemic deficiencies” in the police department.

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