Months after a deadly encounter that touched off contentious protests, two police officers who were captured on video shooting and killing an unarmed man in the foothills of Albuquerque, N.M., will face murder charges. James Boyd, 38, was killed after illegally camping in the city.
Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg announced Monday that "a single count of open murder" has been filed against each of two officers: Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez of the Albuquerque Police Department. Sandy retired late in 2014 at the rank of detective.
The confrontation between Boyd and several officers was recorded on a helmet camera that showed several heavily armed officers in a standoff with the man as he stood on a hillside in the Sandia Foothills. Boyd was reportedly armed with knives and had a history of mental illness.
According to KRQE News, an attorney for Sandy said today that his client "had not only the right, but the duty to defend a fellow officer from a mentally unstable, violent man wielding two knives. Keith did nothing wrong. To the contrary, he followed his training and probably saved his fellow officer's life."
The police video shows Boyd talking with an officer who was seemingly trying to reach an end to the stalemate. As he picks up his backpack, Boyd tells the officer to keep his word, and not to worry about safety.
"I'm not a [f------] murderer," Boyd says.
Seconds later, a flash-bang grenade is fired at his feet. Boyd then stands facing the officers — and as he turns away from them, at least two officers open fire. Boyd was struck by live rounds, stun guns and bean-bag rounds — some of which were fired as Boyd lay on the ground saying he was unable to move.
Several large protests were held after the killing; weeks later, police shot and killed a 19-year-old woman. In the same month, a federal investigation concluded that the Albuquerque Police Department "engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."
Over a four-year span, Albuquerque police shot dozens of people, killing 25 of them, as NPR's Kelly McEvers reported last spring.
Reporting on the lingering divide between the department and activists, Kelly reported last September:
"Before the Justice Department released its findings, local criminal investigators found all previous Albuquerque police shootings to be justified, says Shaun Willoughby, vice president of Albuquerque's police union."
Update at 3:25 p.m. ET: Statement From The Police Department
Responding to a request, the Albuquerque Police Department sent us a statement calling the case "a matter of great concern" for all involved.
It concludes, "Having the case presented to a District Court Judge at a preliminary hearing will permit the evidence to be presented in a transparent and public forum."