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Vol. 78/No. 19      May 19, 2014

Albuquerque cops’ killing
of homeless man sparks outrage
(front page)
The video of James Boyd being gunned down by Albuquerque cops was made public March 21, sparking protests in that city in New Mexico where police have fatally shot 24 people since 2010. Outrage spread after cops assaulted a March 30 demonstration against this on-the-spot administration of capitalist “justice.” On April 10 the U.S. Department of Justice released a report saying that “most” of the killings by the Albuquerque Police Department were “unconstitutional.”

“We have a rogue regime, out of control, that’s getting away with murder,” Kenneth Ellis II, 54, said in a phone interview from Albuquerque April 28. His son, Kenneth Ellis III, an Iraq war veteran, was shot and killed by the cops in January 2010. “They shot him in the back, just like in Boyd’s shooting,” he said. “My son’s five-year-old son had to bury his daddy.”

On March 16 Albuquerque cops killed Boyd, a 38-year-old homeless man, who was camping in the city’s foothills.

A video of the incident, shot from an officer’s helmut-mounted camera, showed Boyd gathering his belongings. “Don’t change up the agreement. I’m going to try to walk with you,” he tells officers who confronted him from a distance for illegal camping. “Don’t worry about safety, I’m not a f------ murderer.”

“Do it,” one officer tells another, who releases a flash grenade near Boyd’s feet. An apparently disoriented Boyd then turns his back to police and starts to turn away as cops order him to “get on the ground.” Before Boyd can take a step he is shot six times and falls face-first to the ground. “I can’t move,” Boyd said — his last words given in response to police orders to put his hands up and drop a small knife in his hand. Cops then shot him with beanbag rounds and sicced a dog on him. Boyd — bleeding, unresponsive and limp — is then handcuffed and left in the dirt as cops leisurely searched his camp. Boyd died in a hospital the next day.

At a news conference that accompanied the Albuquerque Police Department’s release of the video March 21, Police Chief Gordon Eden said the deadly force used against Boyd was justified.

In response, hundreds of protesters took to the streets March 25 and again March 30. “It has reached a boiling point, and people just can’t take it anymore,” Alexander Siderits, 23, told Associated Press at the 10-hour-long March 30 action. As the demonstration continued into the evening, city authorities declared it an unlawful assembly and sent riot police to disperse and provoke protesters with tear gas. Some people were led away in zip-tie restraints. At least six protesters were arrested on disorderly conduct charges.

“Officers of the Albuquerque Police Department engage in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including unreasonable deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment,” said the April 10 report by the Justice Department, concluding a 16-month investigation into assaults, use of Tasers and shootings. “A significant amount of the force … was used against persons with mental illness and in crisis.”

The report “indicates what I’ve been saying for the last four years,” Ellis said.

Hundreds of Albuquerque residents attended public hearings April 28-30, voicing their opinions about the police. Ellis attended, as well as Mike Gomez, whose son, Alan Gomez, 22, was shot and killed by an officer in May 2011. Cops surrounded the house of Alan’s brother Eric Gomez after receiving a call from Eric’s girlfriend that Alan wasn’t allowing them to leave, the report said. The cop who killed him said he thought Alan Gomez was holding a gun, but police admit he was unarmed.

In March 2012 the Albuquerque Journal disclosed that the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association was giving payments to officers involved in shootings, supposedly to cope with trauma. Cop Sean Wallace, who shot Alan Gomez, was among the recipients. “You’re telling police that if you shoot somebody you’re going to get paid leave and you’re going to get $500,” Mike Gomez told the New York Times, which reported the special payments have since been ended.

A month after Boyd’s killing, an Albuquerque police officer fatally shot Mary Hawkes, a 19-year-old homeless woman who reportedly often slept in cars. Police Chief Eden said she was an auto theft suspect. Hawkes was gunned down during a foot chase.  
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