ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The man whose death sparked outrage in Albuquerque was buried Sunday, almost a month after he died.
James Boyd, who suffered from a mental illness, was homeless and camping illegally in the foothills when he got into a standoff with APD on March 16.
“Today we remember James’ lifelong struggle with mental illness, we remember that he was no different than us,” says Father Rusty Smith of St. Martin’s Hospitality Center.
Video of APD officers shooting him is now the subject a federal criminal investigation.
On Sunday, dozens gathered to say their formal goodbyes to Boyd at St. Martin’s Hospitality Center. The funeral was attended by friends, family and people who never got to meet him.
“I believe very deeply on that late afternoon when James died that when he opened his eyes, he was in the arms of a gentle and loving God,” says Smith.
The people who attended the service came to celebrate Boyd’s life and call to mind the struggles many like Boyd face – homelessness and mental illness.
Smith says Boyd’s death awakened the souls of his community.
“We can no longer walk silently by individuals struggling with mental health issues and pretend we don’t see their face,” Smith says.
Smith led the ceremony and said Boyd was like many people dealing with their own struggles. He remembered Boyd as a man who loved the outdoors and was at peace when he was outside. Smith admitted Boyd could be harsh, but he was loved nonetheless.
Smith also gave Boyd’s family an opportunity to speak. His brother thanked those in attendance and for everything they’ve done for the family and all of their support.
“He was always loved,” Boyd’s brother said. “He was a very kind soul. He cared about a lot of people. He helped a lot of people and that’s how he will be remembered.”
Smith called on people at the funeral to use Boyd as an inspiration to peacefully make change happen within the community.
Following the morning service, Boyd was buried at Sandia Memorial Gardens near Alameda and San Pedro.
That’s where John, one of his friends, described the last time he saw him.
“I saw him being kind to some other people at a bus stop – talking and being a little happy,” recalls John.
John says it’s hard to understand how Boyd ended up where he did — losing his life in a standoff with police.
On March 16, officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez are seen on video shooting Boyd in the Albuquerque foothills. Boyd was armed with knives, but appeared to be turning away when Perez and Sandy fired their weapons.
Sources told KRQE News 13 a federal grand jury subpoenaed belt tapes and reports last week from state police officers who were present at the shooting, in connection with the FBI investigation. There’s no word on how long the criminal investigation will take.
Anger over the video of the James Boyd shooting sparked a lot of the outrage displayed over the past few weeks.
The international hacktivist group Anonymous targeted APD’s websites after the video went viral.
Protesters have taken to the streets, too, in a number of protests, including one that ended with APD using tear gas two weeks ago.
In the Department of Justice investigation into APD released Thursday, the feds cited the initial statement of new APD Chief Gorden Eden that the shooting was “justified” as evidence the department has a long way to go – even under the direction of new leadership.
The Boyd shooting is also calling attention to city services for homelessness, substance abuse, and mental illness.
On Sunday, City Councilor Isaac Benton called for an expansion to those services.