James Boyd moments before being shot by Albuquerque police, March 16, 2014

Albuquerque Police Officers Charged With Murder For Homeless Camper Killing

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Two Albuquerque police officers were charged with murder Monday, for their involvement in the shooting death of 38-year-old James Boyd – a homeless and mentally ill man who was alleged to be illegally camping in Albuquerque’s foothills last March.

Former detective Keith Sandy and SWAT Team officer Dominique Perez will face a preliminary hearing before a judge who will decide whether there is enough to proceed with the charges, Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg’s office said in an email release.

Brandenburg filed the charges via criminal information, allowing her to charge the officers without presenting evidence to a grand jury. No date has been set for the court hearing.

Sandy and Perez shot 38-year-old James Boyd, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, after a four-hour standoff in the Sandia foothills. Boyd was armed with two small knives.

A helmet camera video released by APD after the shooting appears to show Boyd attempting to comply with officers orders to come down from his location, and attempting to convince officers he is not a threat. Officers respond by firing a flash grenade at him.

After the explosion, an officer with a dog and an officer with an assault rifle rush Boyd while screaming at him to get down. Boyd appears to pull out small knives in both hands as the officer with a dog approaches him. Officers then fire six live rounds at Boyd as he turns his back to the officers officers.

Once on the ground officers pelt Boyd with beanbags while yelling for him to drop the knives. Boyd is laying face down in the dirt, incapacitated. One officer then guides a dog over to his body which bites and chews on his lower back area.

Another officer slaps away a knife from Boyd’s limp hand and then handcuffs his lifeless body. Boyd died from his gunshot wounds the next day.

Watch the raw footage:

At a press conference five days after the shooting, Chief Gorden Eden told reporters that he believed the shooting was justified because Boyd made a “threatening” move towards the officer with the dog.

Although the shooting was not included in the Department of Justice’s investigation into APD, during the announcement of their findings, the DOJ cited the shooting, and Eden’s comments about it, as evidence of the systemic problems at APD.

The Department has had over 40 police shootings since 2010. 26 of them led to suspect deaths, prompting the United States Department of  Justice to issue a report critical of the agency’s use of force.

A recording that emerged back in September captured officer Kieth Sandy telling another officer he was going to shoot Boyd “in the penis” moments before gunning him down.

“For this f**king lunatic?” Sandy says in the recording to state trooper Chris Ware after being informed Boyd asked for state troopers, “I’m going to shoot him in the penis with a shotgun here in a second.”

Listen:

The Boyd family attorney, Shannon Kennedy, said at the time the recording is likely proof of intention.

“Two hours later he’s escalating the situation so he can do just that,” Kennedy said. “It’s chilling evidence and stunning that he has not been criminally indicted. He says to a state police officer ‘that f’ing lunatic, I’m going to shoot him in the penis.’ It’s crystal clear, and he says it with contempt in his voice.”

It is not clear whether District Attorney Brandenburg considered the recording or the claims of ‘intent’ when deciding to file the murder charges against the officers, but Brandenburg told reporters, “We have enough evidence of probable cause. We can meet that standard in this case.”