If you have not heard, the Albuquerque Police Department has been under fire (pardon the pun) by both the public and the Department of Justice (DOJ) due to the abnormally high volume of police shootings. The APD hit the national and international news after the cold-blooded, unnecessary shooting of a homeless man, James Boyd, who was found camping in the foothills of Albuquerque. (More details & video below if unfamiliar with the story. Also included are the photos I took at one of the Albuquerque protests against the APD).
On Friday, Robert Huntsman, the newly-appointed Deputy-Chief of the APD, said:
“It’s difficult but this is definitely going to make us better… and I look forward to the challenge.”
Excuse me? A “challenge”?? What’s the challenge? To be more civil and not use excessive force as frequently as they do? You look cross-eyed at an Albuquerque cop and have to worry about being shot.
When the DOJ released their findings that the APD uses excessive force, much of the APD was shocked and hurt by the findings. Was this not expected? I mean, seriously, the APD has shot more civilians than the NYPD (per capita of course). Did the local officers expect a glowing report that all is well and for the DOJ to skip on back home to their families?
Here is the interview with Huntsman. The video starts at 2:38 — just before he declares that he is looking forward to the challenge.
JAMES BOYD – The story
On Sunday, March 16, the APD received a phone call about a man illegally camping in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains. The Sandias butt up agsinst the eastern edge of the city. It is primarily residential, and boasts some of the more expensive homes in the city due to the view and more temperate climate.
It turned out to be a long, tiring ordeal for both the police and the camper, whose name was James Boyd. Boyd was a homeless man, 38, and had a history of mental illness. He was living in a different reality, one in which he was a federal agent and not someone to be bossed around. He also has had his share of some short trips to jail.
But on that infamous Sunday night, you would have thought James Boyd became a ninja warrior wielding deadly, razor-sharp knives ready to plant one between an officer’s eyes by the way the APD reacted to Boyd after he “surrendered” (surrendered what? camping?) to the police and was headed down the hill. During Boyd’s descent, he can be heard via the helmet-cam video below, asking for reassurance that he would not be harmed – of which the police responded that they would not harm him. Apparently the APD will say whatever they feel is necessary regardless of truth or lie.
As we watch Boyd coming down the trail at a slow pace, with his belongings in hand and in a pack over his shoulder, the police yell for him to drop his things. Boyd does comply to which the police so kindly responded with a flash grenade. Well, that scared the shit out of Boyd, as to be expected. Boyd then reached in his pockets and pulled out two knives, then turned away as if he was suddenly aware his life was in danger – which it was. We’ll never know what Boyd’s intent was at that moment because he was then shot several times in the back and died afterwards in the hospital.
Because Boyd was in the act of turning himself in and no longer arguing, I believe that he was attempting to offer and turn over his knives. Sadly, he never got to say anything as the police starting shooting immediately upon seeing the knives which were about the size of steak knives.
This is where I have to seriously wonder what the police thought James Boyd was going to do. He’s a homeless man, unshowered, dirty clothes, slowly and rather clumsily coming down the trail — really a threat to no one. Did the APD and SWAT team expect to see James Boyd do a graceful, but powerful, dive roll behind a boulder while at the same time throwing the knives in his hands at the officers as if he was throwing specially made martial arts knives?
The police were at least 20 feet away. If Boyd frightened any one of them and/or made any one of the officers fear for their life, I suggest that officer needs to find another line of work.
This cold-blooded murder of James Boyd was the last straw for Albuquerque residents. The police cam video going viral is what was needed to finally see some large scale public action against the police department.
The Department of Justice had already arrived in 2012 in response to complaints of excessive force and unnecessary deaths at the hands of the APD. The Boyd shooting ended up being the coup de grâce to the police force.
International media attention as well as public protests in Albuquerque have finally driven home the point that our police here are too violent. A large percentage of residents either fear or are intimidated by the police. The police are not seen as our protectors but more as a badge-wearing gang taking the law into their own hands and feeling free to do what they want.
The police have attempted to substantiate their actions because Boyd had a long criminal history. Looks to me like they judged Boyd as guilty long before he did anything.
(Side note: Yes, there are some wonderful officers, and unfortunately, they are bearing the brunt of their ignorant co-officers actions. A police force is only as good as their weakest, most inept officer.)
Below is the helmet cam video from one of the officers that went viral. Warning, it is graphic. If you do watch it, pay special attention to the APD actions even after Boyd was shot and is lying on the ground, face down. After Boyd falls down from being shot and is not moving, the police continue to use a bean bag gun on him, then let the police dog attack Boyd’s unmoving leg. The APD care not about the life of their “dangerous” mentally ill illegal camper.
Below the video are some photos I took of one of the several protests against the police here in Albuquerque. This happened to be the protest that ended up drawing tear gas from the police due to the protesters being uncooperative and not clearing the streets later at night. I had left several hours before this occurred as I didn’t expect it to go that long. Although I am not sure tear gas was necessary since I wasn’t there, the protesters were clearly out of line. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
References and related articles.
- KOAT News: New APD deputy chief: DOJ report a ‘road map’
- KOAT News: Past 37 APD-involved shootings in order
- The NY Times: Justice Dept. Accuses Albuquerque Police of Excessive Force
- KRQE News: APD’s clean-up man has SWAT background
- Huffington Post: Police Shoot Homeless Man During Camping Arrest
- KOAT News: Man killed in foothills officer-involved shooting had long criminal history
- The NY Times: Police Confront Rising Number of Mentally Ill Suspects