Review Officer announces 1st unjustified APD shooting

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A month after the U.S. Department of Justice released a report criticizing the woman in charge of independently reviewing police shootings, she is coming down on an Albuquerque Police officer.

It’s the first time the city’s Independent Review Officer Robin Hammer has ever recommended an officer get in trouble for firing a gun.

In its investigation of APD, The Department of Justice said Hammer was “too closely aligned” with the department and often sided with officers who clearly broke policy. Now, some are questioning the timing of Hammer’s most recent findings.

The findings have to do with a 2012 SWAT situation in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights. On December 17th, 2012, a burglary suspect named Christopher Sosa wouldn’t come out of a house near Candelaria and Juan Tabo.

Eventually, Sosa hopped in a car in the garage, opened the door and drove off. Then Chief Ray Schultz said the SWAT team’s Bearcat truck stalled and Sosa was able to drive around officers.

At the perimeter of the SWAT scene, APD Officer Randal White fired two shots at Sosa’s car as he drove by.

One bullet hit the car’s dashboard, another hit a nearby elementary school.

At a Police Oversight Commission meeting on Tuesday, Hammer announced Officer White violated APD policy by firing at Sosa’s car as it drove away.

Hammer found that Officer White’s story didn’t match the physical evidence. Officer White originally told investigators that he fired at the front part of the car because he feared for his safety and was aiming to get the car to change directions. However, evidence shows he fired from behind the car.

Sosa wasn’t injured in the shooting and was arrested three days later.

Hammer is recommending that APD suspend Officer White.

Chief Gorden Eden will ultimately make the decision. KRQE News 13 did not hear back from APD on Tuesday about what exactly the discipline would be.

Mike Gomez, whose son Alan was shot and killed by an Albuquerque Police officer, thinks Hammer is playing politics.

“It’ll be something, it’s a positive move, but only because of her being watched by the DOJ because of what the DOJ put in their report, but to me, it’s just a show,” said Gomez.

Hammer also reviewed Officer White’s failure to record lapel camera of the shooting. Hammer concluded that the officer didn’t violate the policy at the time because he had no reason to be recording video at the perimeter of the scene and was surprised by Sosa’s escape.

The only time an Independent Review Officer has ruled that an officer should get in trouble for a shooting was after the 2010 death of Kenneth Ellis III.

An Iraq War veteran, Ellis III was shot and killed APD Officer Brett Lampiris-Tremba following a traffic stop. Then IRO William Deaton recommended Lampiris-Tremba be disciplined, but both the Police Oversight Commission and the APD chief disagreed. That shooting ended up costing the city $8 million.

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