First I’d like to offer sincere props to the brave and committed anti-police brutality activists who have risked so much with their relentless pressure by way of civil disobedience in order to stop the killings by APD cops and change the culture of the most lethal cops by far in the nation. Without their dedication and superior strategies, almost nothing would be known by the public, and certainly nothing would have changed for the better. And yet, the APD went without killing anyone for six months until the most recent three last week. The nation is watching now, and we have them to thank. The City PTB must be uncomfortable as hell with the public now knowing how much money they’ve had to pay out in wrongful death claims and for the implementation of the DoJ’s consent decree after being forced into the initial investigations due to rampant citizen complaints. Well done, all of you!
Now on to the new story the world is watching:
On January 12 Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg charged former APD Officer Keith Sandy and SWAT team member Dominique Perez with murder in the assassination of James Boyd. Boyd, you’ll remember, was the schizophrenic homeless man who was camped out in the foothills above Albuquerque when he was shot dead by police on March 16. He was turning away from the cops and picking up some of his bundles as they’d demanded, when first, the K-9 unit, then the cops attacked him with taser and beanbag rifles, then loaded bullets into him. As far as I can tell from the video, he’d first pulled two small knives out of his pockets in fear of the crazed dog’s aggression. You can watch it here; I won’t embed it again. Note that after they hit him with a few more beanbag rounds, they let the dog declare him dead first. My rage boileth over…again.
This link will take you to the dashcam recording (Oopsie) of former Peace Officer Sandy telling another cop that he would ‘shoot that ‘fuckin’ lunatic in the penis with a shotgun’ just two hours before they gunned him down like a rabid animal.
Now Kari Brandenburg has been in office since 2001, and that since that time, the APD has killed 46 people, and 28 since 2010. This is first time she has ever charged any APD cop (thus allowing total exemption in 45 others), apparently finally yielding to public pressure, especially as the case would seem to be a slam-dunk for any sentient being, including the Judge the DA will appear before in the arraignment phase. But we know only too well how that often goes…
Now detractors and the defense attorneys for the cops are claiming that Brandenburg’s motivation to file murder charges was due to the fact that she was being investigated for ‘witness bribery’ in a case involving her adopted son who is addicted to drugs. There was apparently a four-month hiatus in the investigation that was revved up again recently. Payback? KRQENews has discovered recordings (video and later, audio tapes included) that indicate they’ve essentially… got nothin’: ‘Detective David Nix: Case against Brandenburg is ‘weak,’ ‘but it’s gonna destroy a career’. It’s sordid as hell, and quite damning, including the fact that Keith Sandy worked on ‘the investigation’. (A tip of the hat to Max Blumenthal and his storify by Tweet of this national Police Scandal, which is where I discovered the KRQE report.)
Two days after Brandenburg had announced she’d file murder charges in the James Boyd case, the APD had shot and killed two more citizens, one an evolving ‘blue-on-blue’ case involving undercover narcs that doesn’t smell quite right, and a strange one in which officers’ accounts and witness video and accounts vary greatly. This is David Correia’s account of the murky story of the killing of John Edward Okeefe on Jan.13.
At any rate, Chief Deputy DA Sylvia Martinez showed up at the crime scene…and was barred from proceeding past the crime scene tape, according to several reports. But shortly afterward, and incensed Brandenburg spoke to the press:
‘That’s when Deputy City Attorney Kathryn Levy violated a written agreement that governs the way police shootings are investigated here — an agreement adopted by the U.S. Justice Department as part of its mandate to reform APD — by barring one of Brandenburg’s chief deputy prosecutors from the early stages of a probe into the most recent APD shooting.
Shortly after an APD officer fatally shot a suspect near the intersection of San Mateo and Constitution NE, Levy told Chief Deputy DA Sylvia Martinez that Martinez could not attend the incident briefing.
A representative from the DA’s Office has attended such briefings since at least 2001 to provide legal advice, approve search warrants and participate in a “walk-through” of the scene. In fact, according to a memorandum signed by Levy, Brandenburg and several other top officials last September, the briefing should not have been allowed to begin without someone from the DA’s Office present.
“Upon arrival, the task force members will await instructions and an incident briefing which will begin as soon as possible but not before all task force members are present,” the memorandum states. The DA’s Office is named as a task force member.
But Levy denied Martinez entry, saying the city and APD believe the DA’s Office has a conflict of interest in police shooting cases because of the way it handled the Boyd case: by sending a different chief deputy DA to the scene of that shooting, then assigning that same prosecutor to file the charges against Perez and Sandy.’
Levy apparently also told Martinez that the APD “wouldn’t be needing any legal advice or help” and that Martinez “could go home”, and told her that they could call another prosecutor’s office to come down.”
One issue for me is whether or not part of a district attorney’s mandate in officer involved shootings is to give advice, most especially to the cops involved. I did try to find any of the DA job descriptions in four or five big cities, and never saw that service mentioned.
But I digress; concerning the agreement signed by both the APD and the District Attorney’s office back in 2006 that gives representatives of the DA access to officers on the scene of officer-involved shootings, this from the same article is key:
“Last fall, Mayor Richard Berry’s administration signed a settlement agreement with the U.S. Justice Department of Justice to implement hundreds of reforms at APD. The agreement came after an 18-month DOJ investigation in which federal officials found widespread use of excessive force by APD officers, including in police shootings.
The Justice Department, as part of ongoing reform efforts, adopted the local agreement that spells out the process for police shooting investigations.
“It is my opinion that the city violated” the agreement, Brandenburg said. “And that means they violated their agreement with the DOJ.”
Rob Perry claims that it didn’t violate the agreement, of course.
Was there a ringer at the crime scene?
Via David Correia:
“While Brandenburg was not on the scene Robin Hammer was. Hammer served as the Independent Review Officer for the Police Oversight Commission. The Commission was recently abolished by the City Council and replaced by a Civilian Police Oversight Agency. It’s not clear what Hammer was doing at the scene or who gave her access to the scene. As IRO her job was not to work alongside APD in its investigations of crimes or officer-involved shootings, but rather to serve as an independent investigator of complaints against Albuquerque police officers. In the video below she can be seen conferring with an APD Detective named Juarez and helping her coordinate an eyewitness interview.”
Hammer was often said to be (ahem) overly cozy with the city attorney and the Chief Administrator Rob Perry and other defenders of the status quo. Correia describes the tense sausage making of the improvements of the new Civilian Commission here, as well as the abject systemic failures of the old POC. The part that city-hired counsel Scott Greenwood played is sincerely snakey, if not utterly duplicitous. Heeeeerrrre’s th Hammer:
Now for the scandal where the APD is acting ‘above the law’, as well as so far unnamed others, as well: the list may include the Chief Administrative Officer of the city Rob Perry, Deputy City Attorney Levy, Chief Gordon Eden, Mayor Berry; local APD Watchers would know the list better than I. Who sent Hammer, and upon whose orders was Brandenburg’s officers from the investigation?
Two days ago, in a joint decision by the city council and US Attorney for New Mexico, Dr. James Ginger and his team at Public Management Resources Inc. were appointed as federal monitors to make certain that the federal consent decree is upheld. Ginger said they will make sure that it is ‘at least 95% of the time’. As of today, it seems a judge will have to approve of that appointment and larger agreements between the DoJ and the City of ABQ.
Complicating the situation around the prosecution of Sandy and Perez is the fact that their defense attorneys smell blood in the water from the seemingly rogue investigation of Kari Brandenburg. They’ve asked that she be recused from the case, and for a Special Prosecutor to be named. From the ABQJournal:
“Defense attorneys Sam Bregman and Luis Robles on Thursday filed documents asking District Judge Alisa Hadfield to disqualify Brandenburg and her entire office from prosecuting the case.
“The politically charged nature of this case creates the impression of bias or impartiality that is imputed to the District Attorney’s entire office in light of the potential charges against District Attorney Brandenburg,” the motion states. “Recusal is appropriate, especially in light of the District Attorney’s personal conflict of interest with the Albuquerque Police Department.”
CAO Rob Perry had sent her an ‘aggressively worded letter’ demanding the same. Brandenburg said she’s ‘staying put’. From KRQE again:
“Perry claims Brandenburg and her entire office have a conflict of interest in the case — and in all other police shooting cases. She disagrees.
“At this point, we don’t see any legal reason to appoint a special prosecutor,” Brandenburg told KRQE News 13 Monday in her first public comments since receiving Perry’s letter last week. “Neither has anyone given us a reason up to this point … We think we’re following the law and, for doing that, we’re getting push back from the brass at APD and from the Mayor’s Office.”
And in today’s news: ‘On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez broke his silence and agreed.’ Cool.
Does it begin to remind you of the ‘work slowdown’ NYPD hissy fit against Bill DeBlasio after he’d said that he and his black wife teach their son how to stay off the cops’ radar?
You might be interested in the KRQE story by Jeff Proctor (link again), as he parses some of the disagreements between Rob Perry’s accusations concerning his opinion that Brandenburg must take potential cases grand juries, not rely on ‘information’ to take to a judge directly, her responses, and what the reporter had discovered over his years of reporting on both. It’s a bit too much for me to distill here.
No date for the preliminary hearing has been set.
Brandenburg finally did the right thing bringing the case before a judge, whether the judge finds probable cause for either of them to be tried for murder one, murder two, manslaughter, or…dismisses the case altogether. Given SCOTUS law that says something close to ‘if an officer reasonably feared for his or her life, a shooting may be considered justifiable. Clearly, none of them could have met that bar before exterminating James Boyd. But I did think about it when one of the cops said that he feared for his K-9 unit’s (dog’s) life, especially given that the police consider their K9’s members of the force. Hell yeah, James pulled out some pocketknives because the handler sicced the dog on him!
Radley Balko who wrote ‘Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces’ (h/t juliania) put it this way:
“Now think about another prosecutor in some other part of the country who perhaps would like to do more to hold rogue police officers accountable. He or she is watching what’s happening now in Albuquerque. What lesson does that prosecutor take away?
The recent rallies, protests and demonstrations against police brutality and excessive force have been notable for their size, diversity and breadth (that is, they’ve been happening all over the country). But for real reform to happen, advocates will need to do more than protest the public officials who get it wrong. They’ll need to find ways to show public support for the officials who have the courage to get it right.”
Some things you must always be unable to bear. Some things you must never stop refusing to bear. Injustice and outrage and dishonor and shame. No matter how young you are or how old you have become, refuse to bear them.
~ William Faulkner
Some of us are only able to give all of you Warriors for Justice a signal boost, but boost we will; thank you again.
(cross-posted at My.Firedoglake.com)