After video of police killing a homeless man in Albuquerque went viral in 2014, hundreds of demonstrators began calling for justice and an end to police brutality. A murder trial for those two officers begins Monday, Sept. 19.
Officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez are facing second-degree murder charges and up to 15 years in prison. It could be the first time ever that Albuquerque police officers have been charged with murder for shooting someone on the job.
Hank Hughes is the executive director of the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness. He said he’s glad James Boyd’s death is being taken seriously by the criminal justice system.
"Even more important to us would be seeing changes in the way homeless people and other people who might have mental illness are approached by the police when there’s an incident," Hughes said.
Detective Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, said the charges have made policing more dangerous. "These officers are terrified to do their job," he said. "Not because the job scares them. Because they’re terrified of going to prison for doing what they were told to do."
Andres Valdez of Vecinos United has been standing up against excessive police violence in Albuquerque for more than 25 years. He says he’s disappointed the officers aren’t facing even stiffer charges. "Most police officers will be waiting to see how this all plays out," he said. "And if they get away with light consequences, then I’m not so sure they’ll actually be placed on notice."