Moral Low Ground


Albuquerque Cops Who Killed Homeless Camper James Boyd to Stand Trial for Murder

Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy

Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy

A New Mexico judge ruled on Tuesday that two Albuquerque police officers must be charged with murder and stand trial for the March, 2014 shooting death of a homeless camper.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Pro Tem Judge Neil Candelaria found probable cause that Officer Dominque Perez and Detective Keith Sandy committed a crime by shooting James Boyd, a 38-year-old mentally ill homeless man, in the Sandia foothills last March.

James Boyd (family photo)

James Boyd (family photo)

Perez and Sandy will be arraigned on charges of second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and aggravated battery, KOAT reports.

“Whether you’re a police officer or a citizen, you don’t get to claim self-defense if you create the danger,” prosecutor Randi McGinn said in court Tuesday. McGinn said that Boyd, who had two knives and a history of violent conduct, was outnumbered, compliant and trusting of officers when they convinced him to pack up his belongings and leave his illegal camp site in the foothills after a three-hour standoff.

Police video of the incident shows Boyd apparently getting ready to comply with the officer’s commands. He is seen gathering his belongings and throwing a backpack over his shoulder as if he’s preparing to move on. As he starts to move, one officer gives the command to “do it,” and another officer fires a ‘less lethal’ round at Boyd while another unleashes a police canine.

As officers close in on Boyd, yelling for him to “get on the ground,” he appears to turn away from them just as Perez and Sandy open fire with rifles loaded with live ammunition. Boyd is struck multiple times and falls face-first to the rocky ground. Although he is clearly down, officers sic the police dog on him anyway.

“He was shot in the back and in the side,” McGinn said during her closing argument. “That shows that he was not a threat when they shot him.”

Sam Bregman, Sandy’s attorney, asserted that the officers were following their training when they shot Boyd, and asked, “How can the state prosecute an officer for murder when the officer was following his training?”

McGinn blasted what she called the officers’ excessive and deceptive tactics, arguing that an appropriate response to Boyd’s illegal camping would have been an order him to relocate to a national forest boundary a short walk from his campsite.

The prosecutor also mentioned John Hyde, a mentally ill man who shot and killed two Albuquerque police officers 10 years ago. McGinn said the city’s police have become too aggressive since then.

“The pendulum has swung too far,” she said. “As a result of what happened with John Hyde, the population that’s suffered the most is the mentally ill.”

McGinn also said the actions of Perez and Sandy were different. Perez had been called to the scene to provide cover for officers who were formulating a plan to arrest Boyd. Sandy, who was never called to the scene, talked about using force against Boyd, who he called a “lunatic,” within moments of his arrival.

“He rushed toward this because he wanted some action,” said McGinn.

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