The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a criminal investigation of a shooting by a former Albuquerque police officer. That’s according to a member of the agency that does civilian oversight of APD.
Jeff Proctor is an independent journalist who reported on the investigation for NMPoliticalReport. He says when former officer Jeremy Dear shot and killed 19-year-old Mary Hawkes in 2014, the incident raised questions almost immediately. He spoke with KUNM’s Elaine Baumgartel.
PROCTOR: There were questions about whether she actually had the gun that he claimed she had. He didn’t have any video from his lapel camera of the shooting. That had been a pattern for him. And he’s an officer who had drawn a tremendous amount of controversy already for his history of use of force against people. So, it was one of those shootings immediately, that there was just a sense that something might be off with it.
KUNM: In the interim, her family has filed a couple of lawsuits. What are they claiming?
PROCTOR: They’re claiming wrongful death and violation of civil rights. They’ve dug up a bunch of things that really kind of profoundly contradict APD’s version of this shooting.
KUNM: They reached out to the civilian oversight agency that reviews shootings like this. What happened then?
PROCTOR: So, the civilian watchdog group was already investigating the shooting because that’s part of what their mandate is. What they got from the family’s legal team was a citizen complaint saying, ‘we want you to look into specific portions of Officer Dear’s conduct on this.’ The agency wasn’t able to do that at the time because they can’t investigate the same shooting from two different angles. Later on, they got some new information that suggested to them that there might have been criminal activity associated with Dear’s shooting of Mary Hawkes.
KUNM: This is information from the whistle-blower lawsuit that the former public records custodian filed after being fired the Albuquerque Police Department, yes?
PROCTOR: Part of it was, that’s right. And those allegations were basically that videos from the night of Jeremy Dear’s shooting of Mary Hawkes, from other officers, had been doctored. They also got other information that they thought pointed to criminal activity although they’ve not said what that was at this time.
KUNM: What’s their status, the oversight agency? The status in their investigation of the shooting?
PROCTOR: They, by law, have to stop their investigation of the shooting when they see something that might be criminal and turn it over to a law enforcement agency. Which is exactly what they did. Ed Harness, the executive director of the citizen group, went over and made a series of presentations to federal officials basically laying out for them what he believed was the criminal activity in the shooting.
KUNM: The Department of Justice has already investigated the Albuquerque Police Department for excessive use of force and fatal force. The department is implementing a consent decree and reforms, so, we have a new DOJ investigation? What makes this investigation different than the one that they did before that resulted in the reform agreement?
PROCTOR: Right. Those are two totally separate processes. The one you just described is taken care of in federal civil court. Right? So, the possible ramifications of APD not implementing all of these reforms—when it comes to training, hiring, the way they use force, the way they investigate themselves—the consequences there would be sanctions against the city of Albuquerque. This is a criminal investigation, what’s happening now. And the consequences of that could potentially be people, police officers, higher-ups at the police department, being charged with crimes and spending time in prison.
KUNM: When can we expect to find out what the result of this new DOJ investigation is?
PROCTOR: I think that’s a really good question, and an open question at this point. These kinds of investigations typically drag on for long periods of time, but I think the landscape at the justice department now is changing. There’s a new administration coming in. Nobody really has a good sense of that. But it is a really significant development that we know now they are investigating the shooting itself, which means they are looking into whether or not Jeremy Dear violated Mary Hawkes’ civil rights by killing her.