ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – After wrangling with the city of Albuquerque and its beleaguered police department for four months, KRQE News 13 has obtained videos that show an officer driving his unmarked truck onto a curb and running down an unarmed man who was fleeing on foot along a sidewalk.
Next, an officer’s body camera video recorded June 4 shows one officer holding Danan Gabaldon, 33, on the ground by the scruff of the neck while he presses his knee into Gabaldon’s back. Gabaldon is bleeding from the face and head, and three other officers are standing over the pair.
The officer who is holding Gabaldon down shoves his Taser against Gabaldon’s head behind his left ear and fires it. The officer then strikes Gabaldon in the head with the butt of his Taser. The officer follows that blow with an elbow to Gabaldon’s head.
As all of that was happening, bystander video taken with a cellphone shows Gabaldon screaming, apparently in pain, and telling the officers he is “sorry.” And before any of it happened, detectives had fired shots at Gabaldon, which missed. They also fired Taser and bean bag rounds at him, some of which apparently did not miss.
Gabaldon has been arrested on suspicion of numerous felony crimes during the past decade, including domestic violence, drug possession and auto theft. He has three convictions — including for aggravated fleeing from law enforcement — and has three felony cases pending.
The band of APD detectives who tracked Gabaldon to the West Gate area on June 4 had been looking for him since May 25. That’s when police say he fled from officers in a stolen SUV. Inside it were two women and a 5-year-old child. APD officer Ryan Graves, who had gone to the scene of that incident, stepped out from behind the open door of his police car and toward the path of the SUV, then opened fire on the vehicle as it sped toward him and then away.
The videos were released nearly a year after Mayor Richard Berry’s administration signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve a blistering set of DOJ findings that said city police officers had a longstanding pattern of violating citizens’ civil rights, specifically through the use of force and deadly force. Department higher-ups, the Justice Department found, had an entrenched culture of turning a blind eye to problem officers and excessive force.
APD refused to turn over any of the police reports related to Gabaldon’s June 4 arrest. The department would not provide the names of any of the officers involved, but video files the city turned over show an officer Sanchez was the one who ran down Gabaldon.
Reached by telephone Friday afternoon, police spokeswoman Celina Espinoza could not confirm Sanchez’s identity, but referred to him as a detective. Espinoza said an APD-led investigation of the shots fired and the arrest that followed showed that Sanchez struck Gabaldon “accidentally” as the detective drove up on the curb in an effort to block his path.
Asked how the arrest of Gabaldon squared with the department’s policies, Espinoza said the use-of-force policy “speaks for itself.”
The policy does not mention using a vehicle to take down a suspect.
“At no time was the suspect compliant,” Espinoza said.
Because officers fired at Gabaldon, a criminal investigation was launched. Espinoza said it is complete, but she did not know whether APD had sent it to the District Attorney’s Office. She said an Internal Affairs investigation is ongoing.
Gabaldon faces a slew of charges from the May 25 incident: child abuse, three counts of false imprisonment, auto theft, assault on a police officer, aggravated fleeing from a law enforcement officer, criminal damage to property, leaving the scene of an accident and resisting arrest.
He has not been charged with a crime related to the June 4 incident.
News 13 requested the videos and reports related to Gabaldon’s arrest on June 8. Initially, records custodian Javier Urban said the records would be released after all the officers had uploaded their videos. Then, APD denied News 13’s request in writing.
It was a curious denial: APD claimed the records did not exist, while citing an exception under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act that exempts certain records from disclosure.
Following the denial, News 13’s attorney, Martin Esquivel, negotiated back and forth with City Attorney Jessica Hernandez for release of the videos from officers’ body cameras and from a bystander’s cellphone. Hernandez agreed earlier this week to provide them, but only if the city were allowed to blur the faces of what it calls “undercover officers.”
The officers present were in plain clothes, but wearing vests with the word “police” written on them in large letters. Some unredacted sections of the videos show the vests clearly.
The city released the videos Friday afternoon. Espinoza said she watched the videos when they were “ready to be released” on Thursday and added that Police Chief Gorden Eden had not seen them.
Lapel cam video
Detectives had been trailing Gabaldon for some distance on June 4. When they confronted him, they surrounded the vehicle he was driving with undercover trucks and SUVs. Eden said at the time that Gabaldon rammed police cars.
At least one officer fired several shots at him as the encounter began. Then, officers began to call out commands to use Tasers and bean bag shotguns as Gabaldon revved the engine of his vehicle and smoked the tires.
Detectives tried alternately to slow the situation down and get Gabaldon into custody, audio recordings released by the department on Friday show. Gabaldon apparently was struck by Taser rounds, bean bags, or both. Still, he managed to get out of the car and flee on foot.
Video from Detective Sanchez’s body camera shows that only 33 seconds passed between Sanchez’s arrival on scene and the moment he ran Gabaldon down. That video shows Sanchez accelerating and pulling the steering wheel hard to the right as he approaches Gabaldon, who is running down the sidewalk.
The truck strikes Gabaldon, whose head slams into the hood, the video shows. The truck then mows down a light pole.
The video captured by a bystander shows Gabaldon running down the street as detectives chase him. The truck Sanchez is driving enters the frame and, just as it strikes Gabaldon, the bystander’s camera points down.
Several bystanders can be heard reacting to the collision. Later, they are heard talking about the incident. One of the bystanders says: “That’s (expletive) up.” Another says: “That is not OK.”
The bystander video also captures Gabaldon telling detectives he can’t breathe. By then, Gabaldon has been in handcuffs for several minutes, and an officer is sitting on his legs.
One of the bystanders says to the detectives: “He’s saying he can’t breathe. You’ve got him. He’s saying he can’t breathe. Think about it.”