ALBUQUERQUE – A K-9 officer testified Monday that two Albuquerque police officers saved his life by shooting a knife-wielding homeless man during a tense standoff in 2014.
Scott Weimerskirch said he was close to James Boyd when Boyd refused commands by officers to get on the ground. He said Officer Dominique Perez and former Detective Keith Sandy then shot the 38-year-old Boyd.
“I was in a helpless position ... trying to control my dog,” Weimerskirch said.
Weimerskirch testified during a preliminary hearing for Perez and Sandy, who are facing murder charges in the death of the 38-year-old Boyd.
A judge will decide after the hearing if the officers should stand trial. Lawyers for both sides are expected to give closing arguments Tuesday.
Defense attorney Sam Bregman asked Weimerskirch some questions from a 4-foot platform to illustrate whether Boyd being on higher ground was a threat to officers.
Holding fake knives, Bregman asked if Boyd’s position and his actions put officers in danger. Standing next to Bregman, Weimerskirch answered yes.
Not to be outdone, Special Prosecutor Randi McGinn also got on the platform, turned slightly away to Weimerskirch and asked how the perceived threat changed with different angles.
“He still had knives,” Weimerskirch said.
Prosecutors say Perez and Sandy shot Boyd despite signs he was surrendering after a standoff.
Defense attorneys say the two officers did nothing wrong and were merely protecting other fellow officers.
An Albuquerque SWAT sergeant testified that police were aware that Boyd suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and had previously attacked an officer.
Sgt. James Fox said officers who arrived at the scene knew basic information about Boyd when they received reports about him camping illegally in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains.
It was unclear from the testimony if Perez and Sandy also knew the details of Boyd’s mental illness.
Fox said police determined the standoff was a SWAT situation because the knife-wielding Boyd was on higher ground and put officers in danger.
Under cross-examination, McGinn asked Fox if he would have shot Boyd had he been surrendering in a pose requested by officers.
“If you are obeying commands? Then I wouldn’t shoot you, no,” Fox said.
Albuquerque Police Sgt. Richard Ingram also testified that Boyd repeatedly threatened officers and escalated the situation.
“Numerous times he said he would kill us ... that we wouldn’t go home to our families,” Ingram said.
Ingram said Boyd drew his knives multiple times and wore layers of clothing so stun gun shots weren’t effective.
Boyd’s death came amid a wave of police shootings in Albuquerque and just before the U.S. Justice Department issued a harsh report into use of excessive force by the Albuquerque Police Department.
Since 2010, there have been more than 40 police shootings in Albuquerque.
A federal judge recently approved an agreement between the city and Justice Department to revamp police policies and assign a federal monitor to make sure changes are made.