ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Prosecutors and defense attorneys are painting two very different pictures of how the killing of homeless camper James Boyd went down.
Prosecutors say Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez turned a nonviolent standoff into a murder scene.
“So if I’m back here and I’m getting madder and madder and madder and I want an excuse to kill you and you have a knife, I can’t run up on you like this and then say, then I get to shoot you because they were close enough with a knife,” said Special Prosecutor Randi McGinn.
The defense says the officers had no choice but to shoot, saying Sandy and Perez protected another officer’s life that day when they shot Boyd.
“That decision was made in a split second, a split second,” said Defense Attorney, Sam Bregman.
Prosecutors say it never should have happened and say police pulled guns on Boyd within 11 seconds of meeting him which escalated the situation that day. They also surrounded him with nearly 20 officers, many heavily armed during the hours-long standoff.
Prosecutors say Sandy shot Boyd first as he was turning away with two small pocket knives before Perez also opened fire, killing him. But the defense says they were protecting a K9 officer who advanced to within 10 feet of Boyd to retrieve his dog. And he turned because he was shot not because he was surrendering. The defense says this was after hours of threatening to kill officers.
Prosecutors say Boyd also told cops, “stop making fun of me” and “I just want to go home and see my family”.
The state had its first witness on the stand, Albuquerque Police Department Chief Gorden Eden who had announced that the shooting was justified within days of the shooting – triggering public outrage.
Prosecutors asked Chief Eden on the stand how APD is supposed to deal with the mentally ill.
“Does it require officers to assume a quiet, non-threatening manner when approaching the subject,” asked Prosecutor Elicia Montoya. “Yes, that’s one of the suggestions,” replied Chief Eden.
The defense fired back saying officers shouldn’t wait until they’re attacked, no matter who they’re dealing with.
After Chief Eden, the prosecution called Jeff Noble to the stand. The former California police officer said he has reviewed more than 150 police shootings, along with previously testifying as an expert on police practices and police shootings.
In court on Monday, Noble questioned the decision to remove an officer from the scene who was trained in dealing with people in crisis.
“It was a very poor decision,” Noble testified.
He also said if police intended to arrest Boyd, there was a crucial part of the plan missing as APD discussed each officer’s role.
“Nobody was identified to actually handcuff him. Nobody was identified to go hands on,” he said. Instead, he said everyone on the scene had their hands occupied with lethal and less-lethal means of force.
Criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Ousama Rasheed doesn’t envy the job that either side has in this case. He believes the fact that these are former police officers on trial could help the defense with the jury.
“You absolutely try to exploit the idea that these are law enforcement officers doing their job, dealing with a very dangerous person,” Rasheed said.
For prosecutors, Rasheed says the issue will be convincing the jury that the shooting was unnecessary and unjustified.
“You don’t let the badge become anything that gives them a magic power,” Rasheed said. “I think that the prosecution has the tougher road because not only do they have to prove the second degree murder charge, but they have to prove that those officers didn’t act in self defense or defense of others.”
Both Perez and Sandy are facing second degree murder or voluntary manslaughter charges. That could mean up to 15 years in prison.