ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Albuquerque Police Department has been roiled by a series of police shootings since 2010, many of them deadly. The controversy reached a peak last year after a mentally ill homeless man carrying two small knives was shot and killed by police during a standoff, resulting in raucous protests. Now, prosecutors have decided to bring murder charges against two officers in the shooting. Here are five key facts about the case.
INCIDENT IN QUESTION
James Boyd was a mentally ill homeless man who had several run-ins with police over the years, and he and officers ended up in a standoff situation on March 16, 2014. He was brandishing two small knives and was near an officer who was handling a dog when two officers opened fire on him with six shots. He died the next day.
Albuquerque has had more than 40 police shootings since 2010, including 27 that were fatal. The cases have included Alan Gomez, who was shot in 2011 while carrying a plastic spoon, and Kenneth Ellis III, an Iraq War veteran who was shot during a standoff in front of a convenience store in 2010. Ellis' death resulted in a nearly $8 million settlement between his family and the city.
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INVESTIGATION
The U.S. Justice Department and Albuquerque last year agreed to several reforms, including better training and protocols for investigation police shootings. An independent monitor position was also created and troubled units were disbanded.
In 2013, Police Chief Ray Schultz retired after an eight-year tenure marred by a spike in fatal police shootings and excessive force cases that critics blamed on a departmental culture that fostered brutality. His announcement came five months after the Justice Department launched its civil rights investigation of the troubled force.
The two officers facing murder charges will have a preliminary hearing before a judge who will decide whether the case goes forward. Their defense lawyers believe they will be exonerated based on the fact that they were simply doing their jobs according to police procedures and training to protect a fellow officer from a dangerous suspect. Unlike secret grand jury proceedings in New York and Ferguson, Missouri, the hearing will be aired in public.