ALBUQUERQUE – A grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer in the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, is re-opening old wounds in Albuquerque.
That’s because none of the Albuquerque officers in the more than 40 police shootings since 2010 has faced charges. And it’s still unclear if the officers in the high-profile March shooting of homeless camper James Boyd will face indictments.
Albuquerque officials recently signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to overhaul the police force. But advocates say the agreement’s credibility could be at stake if no officers face charges in police shootings and excessive force cases.
“This all hits close to home,” said Ralph Arellanes, president of the LULAC Albuquerque chapter and a critic of the police department. “And Albuquerque is bigger than Ferguson. We’ve been dealing with this for years.”
Second Judicial District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said it’s difficult to show probable cause to bring charges against officers in shootings because of state law and federal court decisions.
“Officers have a right to defend themselves,” said Brandenburg. “And every case is different.”
During a protest in Albuquerque on Tuesday, dozens called for the indictments of Albuquerque officers linked to shootings. Some carried posters of Keith Sandy, a detective who shot Boyd after an hours-long standoff in March.
Officer Dominique Perez also shot Boyd, according to police.
Sandy recently put in a formal notice that he was retiring from Albuquerque police. But he came under scrutiny recently after state police audio was released in which Sandy is heard using foul language. He also was heard telling a New Mexico State Police sergeant that Boyd was a lunatic who he planned to shoot.
Authorities said Boyd had suffered from mental illness. Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden later called those comments “completely unacceptable.”
The FBI is investigating but the U.S. Attorney’s Office has not said if indictments were coming from the shooting. Brandenburg said she will announce in “late winter” whether the officers will face state charges.