ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Two years after KRQE News 13 obtained video of an Albuquerque Police officer hitting a convicted criminal with a truck as the suspect ran, the civilian agency that investigates police is saying officers violated APD policy.
At the time, the Albuquerque Police Department said that it was an accident when the officer hit the suspect with a truck.
However, Executive Director Edward Harness of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency (CPOA) said Thursday that it doesn’t matter because it is still deadly force that he believes was unwarranted.
In June 2015, police moved in to arrest Danan Gabaldon in southwest Albuquerque on a felony warrant for driving a stolen SUV at an officer just ten days earlier.
However, the CPOA found problems in how police handled that arrest.
Harness noted that detectives in undercover cars were conducting a “high risk” traffic stop when a detective got out of his car and stepped in front of Gabaldon’s.
Gabaldon drove toward the officer, and the officer fired.
“The officer shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place,” Harness said. “The officer, knowing that this was his history, and they were briefed on that, should not have put himself in the position where the subject would have had the ability to drive at him.”
A letter to Chief Gorden Eden said the officer “precipitated the use of deadly force by his poor tactics and approach during the ‘high risk stop.’”
However, that’s not the opinion of APD Internal Affairs. The letter noted that an IA investigation exonerated the officer.
Gabaldon eventually got out and ran away from officers. That is when a detective hopped in his unmarked pickup truck, turned right and drove up onto the curb and into Gabaldon.
Gabaldon survived, and the CPOA found he did not pose a deadly threat.
“Deadly force was out of policy given that circumstance,” Harness said.
Again, that is not what APD’s IA investigation found, which exonerated that officer too.
The Department’s Chain of Command is still reviewing the IA findings, so they could not comment Thursday.
However, when KRQE News 13 obtained the video two years ago, an APD spokeswoman said hitting Gabaldon was an accident. She said the officer was trying to cut him off, not run him down.
Harness said he’s surprised at the discrepancy between the IA investigation and his own.
“This illustrates the monitor’s position that the department has trouble holding its officers accountable,” he said.
The letter also claimed officers misused their Tasers while trying to handcuff Gabaldon, even hitting him in the head with the butt of a Taser without giving him the chance to comply with their commands.
In the past, APD has told us that Gabaldon was resisting.
CPOA recommended 512 hours of suspension for the officer who fired at Gabaldon and 240 hours of suspension along with a written reprimand for the officer who hit him with a truck.
The final say on discipline is up to Chief Eden.
Gabaldon is in prison for crimes that took place during his encounter with APD in May, including aggravated assault on a police officer, aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer and receiving or transferring a stolen vehicle. He’s also doing time for convictions in three other cases, none of which involved his June encounter with police.
Gabaldon filed a federal lawsuit against the City for how police handled the arrest in June.