Albuquerque prosecutors said earlier this week that they will charge two police officers who shot and killed a homeless man, who had a history of mental illness, last year with murder, The New York Times reported.
The case led to a federal criminal investigation and is “likely to be among the first to rely on evidence obtained by a camera worn by an officer.”
Documents filed by prosecutors said the two officers, Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez, acted with “deliberate intention” when they killed 38-year-old James Boyd. A video of the shooting from one of the officers’ helmet cameras was released by the APD, and resulted in protests from the city’s residents.
“We have evidence in this case to establish probable cause we didn’t have in other cases,” Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari E. Brandenburg said at a news conference, comparing this case with others involving excessive force. The sheer number of these cases against the APD “led city officials to agree last year to federal oversight of the Police Department,” The Times reported.
Brandenburg said she filed criminal informations, charges “submitted by a prosecutor who wants to avoid going through a grand jury,” as a means to remain “totally transparent” regarding the case.
“Unlike Ferguson and New York City,” Brandenburg said, “people will see the evidence and hear the witnesses.”
The shooting occurred after a standoff according to the officers, who said Boyd was “wielding two knives.” The shot that killed Boyd, however, hit the left side of his lower back, which makes it appear as Boyd was turning away when officers opened fire. An autopsy showed no drugs or alcohol in his system.
The citizens of Albuquerque dying as a result of police action is all-too common in the city, as excessive force was found to have “played a role in the deaths of 23 civilians over four years,” according to a Justice Department inquiry into the APD.
The officer-worn video in this case could prove the difference, according to activists like Patrick Davis of Progress Now, who told The Times that without it, “the officer would have faced another rubber stamp investigation and he-said-he-said grand jury reminiscent of Ferguson. Now, the public will get to see evidence and judge for ourselves. It’s a good step on a very long road to rebuilding trust.”