Class Action Lawsuit On The Horizon After Citizens Take To Streets In Protest Of Police Shootings
UPDATE: Sat., March 29, FBI Looking at police recordings of foothills shooting.
Just hours after Tuesday night’s protest of an officer-involved shooting, Albuquerque police opened fire on a man on Albuquerque's Westside. The man, identified as Alfred "Lionel" Redwine, died Wednesday morning. Police say they were responding to a 911 call about a man pointing a gun at a child. No matter the circumstances, experts are saying citizens have reached a tipping point when it comes to police brutality.
Over 1,000 people took to the streets in Albuquerque Tuesday night to protest the fatal shooting of 38-year-old James Boyd, a homeless man said to have mental illness. Demonstrators were there to demand accountability from the Albuquerque Police Department.
The rally began with 23 seconds of silence in honor of all the people who had been killed by Albuquerque officers since 2010.
People then marched to police headquarters where officers observed from behind tinted windows.
A police video of the March 16th shooting showed Boyd gathering his belongings and turning away right before officers opened fire.
Authorities say Boyd threatened to kill officers and held onto knives as an unarmed K-9 officer approached him. Boyd died after officers fired stun guns, six live rounds of ammunition and bean bags.
The shooting is being investigated by at least five agencies outside of the Albuquerque Police Department. New Mexico’s Attorney General Gary King has said his office will also investigate recent APD shootings.
Mike Prysner with March Forward spoke to the crowd at the protest. He’s an Iraq War veteran and said the video is particularly disturbing to people who have served in the military.
"Those of us that have been trained, those of us who have experience, know that what happened with those officers was nothing less than cold-blooded murder," Prysner said.
Protesters chanting You Are Guilty-Albuquerque PD want to see the officers who shot Boyd indicted for murder.
Members of Albuquerque’s Police Oversight Panel are demanding a review of both APD and the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office. They also want the City to adopt their reform recommendations in full.
Panel member Alan Wagman said so far the City has been taking a legalistic stance, and that must change.
"What really has to happen is that the people in real control of the police department, the mayor's office, the chief administrative officer, the chief of police and on down the police chain of command, begin to take seriously their moral responsibility," Wagman said.
The Department of Justice has been investigating APD for allegations of excessive use of force since November 2012. Steven Robert Allen with ACLU New Mexico said there is a renewed sense of urgency on behalf of citizens far and wide to see the investigation completed as soon as possible. Allen says the one silver lining is that there is footage from Boyd's shooting from an officer worn helmet camera, and that footage has been released to the public.
"It's quite possible if we didn't have that video footage that we wouldn't even be sitting here having this conversation right now," Allen said.
He says such documentation is necessary for experts to analyze what went right and what went wrong.
"What we expect to come out of this is a very deep analysis of every aspect of our police departments use of force protocol from an independent body outside of the police department, complete with a list of recommendations to see what we need to do to fix this situation," Allen said.
Teresa Hacsi is with Kennedy Law Firm, which is planning to file a class-action lawsuit against APD on behalf of families with adult children with mental health needs. She says Albuquerque’s police force doesn’t seem to understand how to interact with individuals who have mental disabilities, which in turn leads to a high number of them being killed.
"We want to make sure that they (APD) do adequate training regarding their use of force, particularly their use of deadly force," said Hacsi. "That they educate these officers about mental illness, that they be trained to know what the predictable reactions of persons with mental illness will do based on certain activities. For instance, throwing a flash grenade at a person with schizophrenia is likely to cause an adverse reaction."
Hacsi says in cases against APD, all the courts will allow is monetary compensation for the loss of a loved one, and her firm wants to prevent the loss of life to begin with.