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Albuquerque ordered to pay $6M for police shooting

  • Article by: RUSSELL CONTRERAS
  • Associated Press
  • June 10, 2014 - 5:15 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The city of Albuquerque must pay more than $6 million in connection with the wrongful death of a man with schizophrenia killed by Albuquerque police, a New Mexico judge ruled Tuesday.

In her detailed findings of fact, District Court Judge Shannon Bacon said officers were not acting in self-defense when they punched and shot Christopher Torres, 27, in his backyard in 2011.

Bacon also wrote that the use of deadly force violated Torres' constitutional rights.

According to authorities, Detectives C.J. Brown and Richard Hilger shot Torres in the back at close range while serving an arrest warrant on a felony charge of aggravated auto burglary for trying to carjack a woman at a traffic light. During the confrontation with police, Torres tried to punch Hilger and grabbed Hilger's gun as they scuffled in the suspect's backyard, police said.

But Bacon said the officers did not present the arrest warrant when they confronted him in his yard. The judge said Hilger and Brown also did not contact Torres' assigned Crisis Intervention Team officer or family before confronting him — something the family had asked in order to ease tensions.

Instead, the officers jumped the fence and walked toward him, the ruling said.

"The unnecessary escalation of events by Detectives Brown and Hilger and their own aggressive acts at the Torres home created the unnecessarily dangerous situation in which Christopher Torres was shot to death," Bacon wrote.

Steve Torres, Christopher's father, said he hadn't seen the ruling, but he thinks it vindicates the family's story that their son was unnecessarily killed by police.

"For us, it was never about the money," Torres said. "It was about setting the record straight."

An attorney for the city of Albuquerque did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press.

Janet Blair, a spokeswoman for Albuquerque police, said there is still a pending civil rights action in federal court so police Chief Gorden Eden is prohibited from commenting.

The ruling comes as the city of Albuquerque is in talks with the U.S. Justice Department over pending police reforms following a scathing report faulting Albuquerque police over its use of force and the way officers handle suspects battling mental illness.

The Justice Department is expected to release a draft of its decree later this week.

© 2014 Star Tribune