ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Nobody was more eager to hear the results of the federal investigation into APD than the families of the men Albuquerque police officers have killed.
Five families were at Thursday’s DOJ announcement: Ken and Jonelle Ellis, Sylvia Fuentes, Mike Gomez, Steve and Renetta Torres and Mary Jobe. They’re a small group bonded by grief, united in emotion.
At Thursday’s news conference they heard the feds confirm exactly what they’ve been claiming for years, that the police department has a culture of excessive force, including deadly force.
“It vindicates what we’ve been beating our drum about the last four years,” said Ken Ellis Junior whose son was shot and killed by APD in January 2010.
That shooting led to one of the biggest civil court pay outs against the city. Officer Brett Lampris Tremba killed 25-year-old Ken Ellis III outside a 7-11 in the heights. Ellis, an Iraq war vet had PTSD and officers suspected he was on meth the day he was killed. Ellis had a gun to his own head when Lampris Tremba shot him in the neck, saying he thought he was a threat to officers. A judge ruled the shooting violated Ellis’ constitutional rights and a jury award his family $10.3 million. The city initially appealed but then in January 2014 agreed to pay Ellis’ family nearly $8 million.
Ellis has been the most outspoken about police misconduct.
“This is what I know in my heart,” said Ellis. “It’s spelled out and now the world knows it.”
Mike Gomez was also at the DOJ’s news conference searching for justice for his son.
“This gives me hope because this is a third party coming in, this is the Federal Government,” said Gomez.
Officer Sean Wallace shot and killed Alan Gomez outside his family’s home near San Mateo and Candelaria in May 2011. Gomez’s family says Alan was dealing with mental illness and drug abuse issues when officers responded to a domestic call at the house. The APD SWAT team and other tactical officers surrounded the home. Wallace later told investigators he believed Gomez had something in his hand and was going back into the house when he fired the fatal shot. Gomez was unarmed. The city settled the civil lawsuit for $900,000. The shooting had been Wallace’s third, two of them fatal.
The family members say the fed’s findings are a good start but they want criminal charges against the officers.
“This is not the end of anything, this is just the beginning,” said Ellis. “Until they go through the due process that my son was not allowed, I’m not going to rest.”