DOJ Says Man "Did Not Pose A Threat"
The minor children of an Albuquerque man who was fatally shot by an Albuquerque police officer in 2010 have the right to sue the Albuquerque Police Department and the city for the loss of their father’s companionship, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The unanimous ruling said that a wrongful death lawsuit filed on the children’s behalf can proceed even though their father’s estate didn’t file a suit against the city.
The five justices found that in this case, the APD officer wasn’t immune from the provisions of the state’s Tort Claims Act.
The case involved the March 29, 2010 death of 26-year-old Mickey Owings who was shot in a Walmart parking lot as he tried to back his vehicle away from police a car that was blocking his car.
Owings had parked his car next to a car that police had under surveillance because they believed it had been stolen. Someone got out of Owings’ car, approached the surveilled car and then got back into Owings vehicle.
APD officers then pulled an unmarked police car behind Owings’ vehicle, and officer Kevin Sanchez approached Owings’ car on foot.
“Officer Sanchez drew his gun and pointed it at Owings as he continued to approach Owings’ car,” the court’s opinion said. “Owings drove away once Officer Sanchez began shooting at his car. Ultimately, Officer Sanchez shot and killed Owings during this encounter.”
A grand jury later found that the shooting was justified, but the U.S. Department of Justice criticized the way APD handled the incident. In it’s 2014 report on APD’s culture of the excessive use of force, the DOJ said, “Owings did not pose a threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or anyone else; he was driving straight into unoccupied, parked cars when he was shot. This damage to property, as serious as it was, did not justify taking Owings’ life.”
The DOJ report also criticized APD for allowing its officers to shoot at moving vehicles. The city’s settlement agreement with the DOJ bars that practice.