ALBUQUERQUE – A judge could decide this week if a former detective and a current Albuquerque police officer should stand trial for the shooting death of a homeless man.
Testimony is scheduled to resume Monday in a preliminary hearing for Officer Dominique Perez and former Detective Keith Sandy. They are facing murder charges for the death of James Boyd.
The 38-year-old Boyd, who authorities later said suffered from schizophrenia, was shot during a standoff in March 2014 in the Sandia Mountains foothills. Video of the shooting showed Boyd appearing to surrender before Perez and Sandy opened fire.
Prosecutors say the two officers helped escalate the standoff and recklessly shot Boyd. He later died at a hospital after getting one of his arms amputated.
But attorneys for the officers say their clients did nothing wrong, and they were merely defending their fellow officers from a guy who had knives.
Pro Tem Judge Neil Candelaria may rule Wednesday after hearing from last witnesses to determine if there is enough probable cause for the two men to face a jury. The preliminary hearing resumes after a week in recess and comes after other officers at the scene and a medical examiner have already testified.
The shooting came amid a wave of police shootings in the city and just before the U.S. Justice Department issued a harsh report involving use of excessive force by the Albuquerque Police Department.
Sandy and Perez are the first officers to face criminal charges in the 40 shootings by city police since 2010.
The Police Department and the Justice Department recently entered an agreement to overhaul the force.
Boyd’s death became a tipping point for police critics, and a number of groups held demonstrations in response. Authorities were forced to fire tear gas at protesters at one demonstration.
Advocates warn that Albuquerque will see new protests if Candelaria decides the officers won’t face a jury.
“If these officers don’t stand trial, all bets are off,” said University of New Mexico professor David Correia, who led a sit-in at the Albuquerque mayor’s office. “There will be a lot of anger.”
Authorities are aware that advocates are planning possible demonstrations, police spokesman Tanner Tixier said. He urged people to respect the movement, safety and property.