Two Albuquerque police officers, Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy, have been charged with the murder of a homeless camper after a shooting that generated sometimes violent protests around the city and sparked a federal investigation into a police department that has been found to use excessive force.
CBS News says that Albuquerque SWAT team member Dominique Perez and former Detective Keith Sandy will each face a single count of open murder in the death of 38-year-old James Boyd. Open murder allows prosecutors to pursue either first-degree or second-degree murder charges.
BBC News reports that the fatal shooting in March last year sparked protests in Albuquerque, some violent, and came amid a federal investigation into the Albuquerque police department’s practices. A year-long US investigation found Albuquerque police had inappropriately killed suspects and used more force on those with mental illnesses.
The Albuquerque police department has had more than three dozen police shootings since 2010.
The justice department ordered the city to reduce the use of deadly force in April, but another woman suspected of stealing a lorry was shot and killed weeks later.
Officers Perez and Sandy were charged with Boyd’s murder after video of the shooting filmed from a police helmet camera emerged. In the video, Boyd appears to be surrendering when police shoot a stun grenade at him.
After the smoke clears, Boyd holds two small knives in his hands and police shoot him several times after yelling at him to get on the ground. Police then tell him to put his hands out to the side and drop the knife, to which Boyd replies he can’t move.
RT News reports that Albuquerque police Chief Gorden Eden told reporters that he believed the shooting was justified because Boyd made a “threatening” move toward an officer with the dog.
Lawyers for Sandy and Perez have claimed that the officers acted lawfully.
Speaking for Keith Sandy, lawyer Sam Bregman, told The Associated Press that the charge was “unjustified” and said Sandy did nothing wrong.
He said, “Keith, as a police officer, had not only the right, but the duty to defend a fellow officer from a mentally unstable, violent man wielding two knives.”
Attorney for Officer Perez, Luis Robles, said,
“Sadly, this day has come. Regardless, I am confident that the facts will vindicate Officer Perez’s actions in this case.”
The FBI is investigating the Boyd shooting, but U.S. authorities have not said if the officers will face federal charges.
No date has yet been set for the preliminary hearing into the charges against officers Perez and Sandy.
This case is a departure after grand juries declined to charge officers in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, and the chokehold death of another unarmed man in New York City.