The lieutenant, Greg Brachle, who shot his own officer, has denied assertions that he failed to attend a briefing on the operation on the morning of Jan. 9, 2015
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
The city of Albuquerque and the police lieutenant who shot his own officer during an undercover drug bust in January 2015 can’t seem to get their stories straight as to whether the lieutenant attended a pre-bust operations meeting the day of the shooting.
The lieutenant, Greg Brachle, has denied assertions that he failed to attend a briefing on the operation on the morning of Jan. 9, 2015. His denial came in the form of an answer to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the man he shot eight times at close range, Det. Jacob Grant. In an Oct. 25, 2015 court filing, Brachle’s attorney denied an allegation that he didn’t attend the meeting. That denial suggested that Brachle was at the meeting.
But now, the city, which along with Brachle is a defendant in Grant’s lawsuit, says that Brachle didn’t attend that meeting.
“Brachle, the Lieutenant to whom all undercover narcotics detectives reported, was not at the briefing because he was attending to other APD business downtown,” the city said in a Feb. 26 court document in the case.
The discrepancy could be a key in Grant’s case. Grant’s attorney has asserted in court filings that since Brachle apparently attended the meeting, he should have known all the details of the operation, including the fact that Grant, with whom he had worked for more than two years, would be sitting in the rear driver’s side seat behind undercover Det. Holly Garcia in the undercover car that was used for the bust.
When the bust went down in a parking lot near Tramway Boulevard and Central Avenue, Brachle yanked open the rear driver’s side door of the undercover car—where Grant was siting—and began firing .45-caliber, hollow-point rounds into Grant. Had he attended the morning briefing, Brachle would have known that Grant was in that rear driver’s side seat, Grant’s court filings have said.
But in its court filing, the city said that because Brachle missed the briefing, he wasn’t fully aware of every detail of the operation, including seating arrangements.
“When Brachle left his meeting downtown, and while he was in route to assist the ‘bust’ team, Brachle was briefed on the undercover operation by phone and radio,” the city’s filing said. “As he drove to the bust scene, Brachle also monitored the communication of the bust team. Brachle was apparently not informed of the seating arrangements of the undercover officers or suspects in Garcia’s vehicle; however, that was not unusual because in Brachle’s experience suspects and officers tend to move around from their original locations, and the bust team’s approach to the car is the same regardless of where everyone is seated.”
Grant’s attorney, Alex Gabaldon, has alleged in his court filings that Brachle should have recognized Grant in the back seat because he had worked with Grant in undercover roles for more than two years and because Grant always wore the same clothes on his undercover operations.
But the city’s filing said that Brachle didn’t instantly recognize Grant because of the circumstances. Grant had pulled his handgun on a suspect seated next to him in the back seat that day because the suspect had made a motion to go for a handgun he had, the city’s filing said.
“The windows of Garcia’s car were darkly tinted so that Brachle could not see into the back seat as he approached on foot from the rear,” the city’s filing said. “When Brachle opened the rear driver side door of the vehicle he was only able to see the back of Grant’s head (which was clad in a stocking cap), his upper left shoulder, and his left arm, which was pointing a gun at the suspect in the rear passenger side seat—and in the direction of the officers approaching the car from the passenger side. Because he had only a limited view of Grant, he did not recognize him and believed him to be a criminal suspect.
“At the moment Brachle opened the car door and observed the gun, Garcia was still in the front driver seat of the car, within a few feet of Grant; the officers approaching the rear passenger side of the car were within 10 feet of Grant.”
The city’s filing continued: “Immediately after opening the rear door of the car and observing the gun, Brachle yelled ‘gun, gun.’ Fearing for the life of the suspect at whom Grant was pointing his gun, the life of Garcia, and the lives of the officers just outside of the rear passenger side door of the car, Brachle fired two shots toward Grant, stepped back and fired six more shots. Less than four seconds passed from the first shot to the last.”
Grant suffered grievous injuries, including damage to several internal organs, and has undergone numerous operations to repair the damage. He is still an APD officer but is getting Workers’ Compensation, instead of his regular salary.
Gabaldon has alleged in court documents that Brachle violated numerous APD regulations that day, including one that says undercover officers always approach an undercover car from the rear passenger side, not the driver’s side, as Brachle had done.
Gabaldon told ABQ Free Press that the city’s and Brachle’s attorneys “have taken diametrically opposed views” on whether Brachle attended the briefing that morning.
The executive director of the Albuquerque Civilian Police Oversight Agency has recommended that Brachle be fired because of his actions that day. The Civilian Police Oversight Board is scheduled to rule on that recommendation later this month. The chief of police doesn’t have to accept the CPOB’s recommendations for discipline.
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