Two Albuquerque police officers were charged with murder Monday for their part in the March shooting of a mentally ill homeless man that prompted widespread protests and drew renewed attention to the city's history of officer-involved shootings.
Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg announced Monday that her office had filed documents in court that would set the charges in motion. The next step for the officers, Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez, is a preliminary hearing in which a judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed with the case. The process skips a grand jury, but Brandenburg said her office would make public all relevant information about the case.
"It's critical to be transparent," she said. "And I believe that will be part of the healing process." Sandy's attorney called the charges "unjustified," arguing that the officer "had not only the right, but the duty to defend a fellow police officer from a mentally unstable, violent man."
The 36-year-old homeless man, James Boyd, was shot March 16 after a four-hour standoff that began when he refused to leave a makeshift campsite. Officers approached him, guns drawn, in a confrontation that was captured on a cop's helmet camera.
The police fired several rounds at Boyd as he reached into his pockets. Police said he was pulling out knives. Since the shooting, the U.S. Justice Department has completed an investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department's that found a pattern of excessive force and resulted in a list of reforms. Monday's charges are the first against an Albuquerque police officer in connection to a shooting, the Albuquerque Journal reported. Since 2010, officers have been involved in more than 40 shootings since 2010, resulting in 27 deaths.