NM Prosecutor To Bypass Grand Jury, Charge Cops With Murder Of Homeless Man

Last March, Albuquerque police engaged in a five-hour standoff with James Boyd, a schizophrenic homeless man who was camping out in a restricted area in the foothills after city shelters were closed.

Towards the end of the conflict, when Boyd had given up and was about to grab his things and move along, the police threw a flash grenade at him, and went charging at him with a dog. Startled, Boyd grabbed a knife in self-defense, and was immediately shot down dead by the officers. The whole thing was caught on on a helmet camera–but fair warning, it is incredibly disturbing.

From the video, it is abundantly clear that the officers were in the wrong. Anyone with the least bit of common sense would know that it’s probably a bad idea to throw a flash grenade at anyone in a non-life-or-death situation, least of all a person who is clearly severely mentally ill. There is absolutely no question that there were better ways for that to be handled.

And yet, in light of the events of 2014, it’s hard not to assume these cops will get away with it.

In this case, however, there’s a twist. Albuquerque District Attorney Kari Brandenburg has chosen to forego the grand jury process and go ahead and charge SWAT officer Dominique Perez and now-retired detective Keith Sandy with murder. Although it doesn’t happen often, New Mexico law does allow charges to be filed without a grand jury indictment.

Albuquerque has one of the highest rates of police shootings in the country. Since 2010, 26 people have been shot and killed by police officers — more than both New York and Chicago. Yet, this will actually mark the first time any officers in the Albuquerque Police Department have ever faced criminal charges for killing someone in the line of duty. Brandenburg herself has recently come under scrutiny for not prosecuting a single police shooting in her 13 years in office, while settling them out of court.

In fact, the city has spent $30 million settling these shootings out of court. Which is a lot of money! I’d imagine the people of Albuquerque would much prefer to see these officers charged and then found guilty or innocent, than to have their tax dollars essentially used as hush money.

Hell, if the city had done that and instead used the money for things like taking care of the homeless, providing job training, after school-programs and training police officers to better deal with conflict, that place would probably be a glorious paradise by now. Not to mention having fewer dangerous cops on the street. [RawStory]