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Albuquerque Police May Face Murder Charges in Homeless Man's Death

PHOTO: Two Albuquerque police officers involved the fatal shooting of a homeless man are facing possible murder charges.Photo credit: Dick Elbers/Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: Two Albuquerque police officers involved the fatal shooting of a homeless man are facing possible murder charges.
Photo credit: Dick Elbers/Wikimedia Commons.
January 13, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg is pursuing murder charges against two Albuquerque police officers in the shooting death of a homeless man named James Boyd last March. The shooting occurred in the foothills of the nearby Sandia Mountains.

Brandenburg announced Monday that Officer Dominique Perez and now-retired former detective Keith Sandy each face an open count of murder in Boyd's death. It's reported Boyd was armed with pocket knives during the standoff with police.

Brandenburg says the next step involves a preliminary hearing, open to the public, in which a judge will determine if there is enough evidence to move the case to trial.

"A grand jury is a secret proceeding. Officer-involved shooting cases are important across the country, and we want to share all of the information with the public," says Brandenburg. "We want them to see it as it's unfolding. It is critical to be transparent, and I believe that will be part of the healing process."

Brandenburg says the preliminary hearing's result could range from first-degree murder charges being filed to a complete dismissal of the case.

Attorney Sam Bregman, who is representing Keith Sandy, says his client's actions were within police department policy.

"Keith Sandy followed the training that goes into being an Albuquerque police officer to a 'T,'" says Bregman. "He did exactly what he's trained to do with a violent, unstable person with two knives."

Bregman says he's confident the preliminary hearing process will clear his client of any wrongdoing.

Peter Simonson, executive director at the ACLU of New Mexico, says the district attorney's action may help rebuild trust between the people and the police.

"In general, it's a very positive sign," says Simonson. "It's a signal our city is no longer willing to ignore the use of excessive force against people in our community."

Simonson says the Albuquerque case may encourage district attorneys in other cities to prosecute officer-involved shootings.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM