Attorney Sam Bregman, who represents Keith Sandy, said his client and Perez were trying to protect fellow officers who felt threatened by 'a crazy man with two knives'
The James Boyd killing is arguably the most important case in the modern history of the Albuquerque Police Department. The shooting of the mentally ill camper sparked a national outrage against police shootings, protests and riots in Albuquerque, and led to a brief takeover of the mayor’s office by a group of protestors.
Shortly after the shooting, APD Chief Gorden Eden said it was justified. But on Monday, nearly a year-and-a-half after the March 16, 2014 shooting, Eden testified in court that he still has yet to read the police reports on the case.
Eden was the first witness called in the preliminary hearing for the two officers who shot Boyd—Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez—and when asked by special prosecutor Randi McGinn if he had ever read the reports on the case, he replied, “No.”
McGinn didn’t press Eden, who had been on the job less than two weeks when Boyd was killed, about why he has yet to read the reports. But the answer shocked some spectators in District Judge Neil Candelaria’s courtroom.
McGinn is trying to convince Candelaria to find probable cause to charge Sandy and Perez with second-degree murder for killing Boyd and send them to trial on the charges. She claimed in her opening statement that Sandy and Perez, each of whom fired three shots at Boyd, did so while he was trying to surrender and comply with their orders that he drop two pocket knives he was holding in his hands and lie on the ground.
Boyd was on higher ground than the officers and could only obey the command to lie down by turning to his left and falling to the ground behind him, McGinn said. It was when he turned that the officers fired at him, she added.
During Monday’s hearing, attorneys for the two officers attempted to portray Boyd as a combative and uncooperative subject who refused all attempts to negotiate with officers and who pulled two knives on the first officers who responded to a call that he was camping illegally in the foothills. At one point he threatened to kill the officers, according to testimony.
Attorney Sam Bregman, who represents Sandy, said his client and Perez were trying to protect fellow officers who felt threatened by “a crazy man with two knives.”
Attorney Luis Robles, who represents Perez, said the shooting would not have occurred if Boyd had cooperated with police. “If Mr. Boyd had simply cooperated none of this would have ever happened,” Robles said.
APD officers John McDaniel and Patrick Hernandez, both from APD’s Open Space division, were dispatched to Boyd’s illegal camp around 4:30 p.m. that day. They made no effort to conceal themselves from Boyd and got to his camp around 4:45 p.m., McDaniel testified.
In many ways it was a routine call about illegal camping, and the two officers found Boyd lying down in his tent. One of Boyd’s arms was outside the tent and his hand was visible, but his other hand wasn’t and the officers asked him to show them his other hand because they wanted to be sure he didn’t have a weapon, McDaniel said. But Boyd repeatedly refused to show his other hand and the situation began to escalate.
Eventually Boyd left his tent and stood up. When McDaniel made an attempt to pat him down from behind, Boyd quickly wheeled around and pulled two four-inch blade knives out of his pockets and pointed them towards the officers, McDaniel said.
On a lapel camera video of the scene played in court, the two officers pulled their guns, backed up and shouted more than a dozen times at Boyd to drop the knives. He refused to do so, McDaniel added.
More officers were called and eventually 19 were at the scene, McGinn said.
Officer Brock Knipprath was one of them. He had had crisis intervention training and testified that CIT officers have many “tools” to try to deescalate a situation with a mentally ill person. Officers generally try to stay a good distance from the person and start and maintain a dialogue with them, Knipprath said.
Under questioning from McGinn, Knipprath testified that the CIT unit often assigns individual officers to people in the community who are severely mentally ill to check on them and make sure they’re taking their medications. That helps prevent crisis situations where the police have to be called, he added.
Two CIT officers had been assigned to Boyd for two years before he was killed and apparently they were not called to the scene that day. What wasn’t clear from the questioning and testimony was when officers on the scene that day knew who Boyd was and whether they could have called out his two CIT officers.
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