ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A second day of testimony in the Christopher Torres wrongful death lawsuit brought damaging testimony against the Albuquerque Police Department by a former homicide investigator and firearms expert.
Torres, 27, was shot to death in his backyard in 2011 as two APD detectives were trying to arrest him. Torres’ family is now suing APD, claiming several negligent decisions lead to Torres’ death.
On Tuesday, the Torres family attorneys brought in a former Massachusetts State Police officer and firearms expert who claimed evidence doesn’t match the officers’ stories about what happened the night of Torres’ death.
The former officer, Ronald Scott, testified Tuesday, saying he was “troubled” by the officers’ claim that Torres reached behind himself, grabbed one of the officer’s guns and struggled to gain control. Attorneys tried to establish Scott as an expert witness by claiming he worked in and lead one of MSP’s firearms laboratory for 13 years and has investigated more than 200 officer involved shootings.
Scott claimed that evidence shows Torres was not propped up on his arms during the struggle, but lying flat on his stomach when he was shot. Scott pointed to photographic evidence to support his claim, highlighting some bamboo markings on Torres’ body where Scott believes Torres had been laying on two rolled up bamboo window blinds.
Scott also testified that the area where the officers struggled appears way too small and cluttered for Torres to have been able to reach behind himself and grab Detective Richard Hilger’s gun.
Finally, Scott focused on damage to Hilger’s weapon. APD’s investigators claimed that a small dent on the weapon’s muzzle supports the story that Torres had control of the gun and was wildly banging around in the rocks during a struggle with Hilger and Detective C.J. Brown.
“The condition of this firearm is not consistent with the description and definition of the struggle that took place … with the victim and how the victim was holding the gun in the rocks,” said Scott.
Scott said while he can see how Torres may have had enough room to put his arms up, he says there’s no way the gun went through a violent struggle.
“I would have expected to see this firearm with significant damage, not only on the side but on the top and it’s … it’s in showroom condition, the damage is those few little … I’m going to call them nicks on the front,” said Scott. “I have to complement him I think it’s in an outstanding condition.”
Scott justified his statements on the gun by giving his credentials as a current federal firearms dealer and saying he analyzed high resolution photos of Hilger’s gun through photo editing software.
Torres family attorneys also focused on the fact that APD didn’t find any prints on the gun that belonged to Torres. In cross examination, defense attorneys for the city honed in on the fact the Scott never physically held Hilger’s gun.
Torres’ psychiatrist of more than five years also took the stand, saying Torres was high-functioning, non-violent and on his way toward going back to school.
“I’ve encountered violent people and, you know, the hair on the back of your neck data that you always need to watch if you think somebody is going to be violent,” Dr. Kevin Rexroad said. “I honestly didn’t experience that with Christopher.”
Then the defense took its turn with him.
The city’s attorneys tried to paint a different picture – bringing up two run-ins with the law Torres had in the weeks leading up to the fatal shooting: a road rage incident and another at a local restaurant where he claimed to be a federal agent before scuffling with a customer.
The city attorneys also asked about his missed appointments, use of the drug Spice and lapses in taking his medication around that same time.
The trial got off to a late start Tuesday because the judge wanted to tour part of the neighborhood where the shooting happened. The trial is expected to continue through the end of the week.