ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Attorneys for the family of a homeless man shot by Albuquerque Police filed a lawsuit Friday.
It charges that there were too many officers on scene and no real plan to talk James Boyd out of the Foothills the night he died in a hail of gunfire in March.
While the suit says it was the officers who made the situation dangerous, we also hear what happened for the first time from the officers who fired the fatal shots.
“He is definitely towering over us, has a tactical advantage over us,” said SWAT officer Dominique Perez, describing Boyd two days after Perez and Officer Keith Sandy shot the homeless man who had been illegally camping in the Foothills.
Perez describes the rocky terrain, saying Boyd had two knives as he stood on rocks above the officers.
However, a lawsuit filed Friday accuses police of escalating the situation, saying, “instead of simply talking to Boyd and notifying him he needed to move his belongings,” an officer moved in to unlawfully search him, saw Boyd had a knife in his pocket and pulled out his gun.
The suit says, “41 officers were sent to the scene.”
“It is unclear who is in charge of the scene,” said Laura Schauer Ives, Boyd family attorney. “It is unclear who ultimately commanded it and if there was a clear plan going forward.”
Schauer Ives said supervisors were writing up a plan while the arresting officers began enacting their own, using a flash bang, a Taser, then a police dog.
“When it deployed it had not the expected results,” Sandy said in an interview with APD. “We were expecting him to flinch, to be stunned, to be a bit confused…”
“He then comes out with two knives in each hand holding them in an ice pick grip and raises them up in an upward fashion,” Perez said.
“As he began to turn, I fired my first round and I fired a second round,” Sandy said.
“I felt I had no other choice than to use deadly force,” Perez said.
Schauer Ives said the fact that Boyd was turning away from officers when they shot, as Sandy said in his interview, is a stunning admission.
“The family wants to ensure that this never ever happens to someone else’s loved ones and, in order to do that, there has to be a meaningful systemic change within the department,” Schauer Ives said.
The lawsuit calls on the city to award damages to Boyd’s family as a result of, what it calls, “unlawful batteries” by APD officers and asks the city to improve APD training practices.
Included in the suit, was the nearly 50-page Department of Justice report that criticized those practices.
This shooting is the subject of an FBI investigation.
APD said last week Sandy is on leave and Perez is working an administrative position.
The city said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.