New Mexico Police Under Fire After Video Shows Officers Shooting Homeless Man In The Back

screen_shot_2014-03-25_at_00.03.31.siThe Albuquerque police have long been criticized for a high rate of shootings and the increasing militarization of their operations. This month, many have joined in that criticism after the release of a videotape of police shooting a homeless camper, James Boyd, in the foothills outside of the city.

Boyd, 38, has a history of mental illness with episodes of violence. Three officers approached him on March 16th about camping in an unauthorized area. After they woke him, they had a three-hour standoff and Boyd is heard saying that he was “going to walk” with them. However, he then gathers his things and one officer is heard yelling “Do it”. A flash-bang device then exploded at his feet, causing Boyd to drop his bags. The police released a German Shepard and Boyd appears to take something out of this pocket that might be a knife. However, he seems to be looking straight at the dog and he may have been trying to protect himself from the dog. Then he turns away from the officers. He is then shot repeatedly in the back by two different officers. A dog is then released again to be sure that he is not moving. He was later pronounced dead.

I have watched the video below and I fail to see the need for lethal force, though the department cleared all of the officers as justified in the shooting. The release of the dog seems to me the cause for his reaction. Moreover, he was a good distance away when they shoot him with a dog in between them and the suspect. Yet, Police Chief Gorden Eden has insisted that the helmet video below shows that his officers were in danger and had to fire on a “direct threat.” In this message to the public on the police website, Eden proclaims “We are proud of the way in which we interact with the community in our continuing collaborative problem solving efforts.” This is not a particularly good example of problem solving for most of us who watch the video.

Since 2010, the Albuquerque Police Department has been involved in 37 shootings — resulting in 23 deaths. Critics has said that the city police have shot more people than the NYPD during the same period did in New York despite the fact that New York is 16 times larger than Albuquerque.

I think if it commendable that police waited so long in speaking with Boyd who does have a violent history. It is that patience that makes the ultimate throwing of the flash grenade and the shooting so odd. There seems to be a rapid escalation of force by the police that is not explained by what we are seeing on the videotape. After all, this is a case of someone sleeping in a non-camping area — not the execution of an arrest warrant for a violent offender or some other high-risk operation. Clearly, there is always a risk in approaching a homeless person with both mental illness and prior violence. However, I do not see how the shooting is justified based on this videotape alone.

What do you think?

95 thoughts on “New Mexico Police Under Fire After Video Shows Officers Shooting Homeless Man In The Back”

  1. Stay tooned. The Albuquerque Police Department is under the watchful eye of the feds, the AG and we citizens. Changes WILL occur. Demonstrations speak to the commitment to end the high rate of fatal encounters by APD.

  2. I’ll remember this video if I’m ever in New Mexico. If I get pulled over there, I’ll shoot first and then show my id, you know, just to be safe.

  3. If taking a defensive posture after having a dog ordered to attack you is “charging the k9 officer with a knife”, I’ll kiss your AS_. Albuquerque will pay big for this one. I can’t believe they are still trying to justify it. The militarization of our police is a growing problem. I couldn’t believe the number of rounds of ammunition poured into the boat where the terrorist in Boston hiding. Just hope the police in this nation don’t ever think YOU did something wrong.

  4. A 79 year old tennessee man said ,quote,I did thank god for every morning my family and i woke up but now I thank god and the police for letting us wake-up in the morning and a person isn’t supposed to live this way in fear of his own police ,unquote.Another tennessee man said ,I am more scared of the police hurting me then I am of a crook hurting me or my family.This is supposed to be a free country but police are slowing taking every right we have away from us and we live in fear of our own police PEOPLE WE ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO LIVE LIKE THIS IN AMERICA my opinion for what its worth..

  5. Albuquerque police need to wear cameras with their uniforms. Desecrating a man’s body after you kill him should be against the law–wait a moment, it is!!

    1. They all have lapel cams. Strangely, those malfunction much of the time, particularly if there is any questionable action by the LEO. Such is also true of belt recorders.

  6. Did I really hear one of the police officers say “Booyah!”, after shooting Mr. Boyd??!…As an American born and raised here, with a clean record, I am actually afraid of our police force. Should I feel this way every time that I see them? –There has to be Justice. They cannot get away with this.

  7. I’m a retired Chicago cop and what I saw was the unjustified murder of a homeless man by what are evidently those feminized males that I keep hearing about. Prosecute them!

    1. Tom,
      Our son is an active duty LEO in California and said the same thing….

      As a layman I was shocked when I saw that video, it was unimaginable that this shooting could have happened in our Country. This will only get better when officers are prosecuted for their criminal activity and or lose their jobs.

  8. “Scrutiny of the Albuquerque force is one of 15 investigations of police departments launched during President Barack Obama’s first term.” -from the following article

    Mayor embraces change for Albuquerque police force

    Posted: Apr 10, 2014 2:37 AM EST Updated: Apr 10, 2014 4:08 PM EST

    By RUSSELL CONTRERAS, Associated Press

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – After a scathing report by the U.S. Justice Department revealed a troubling and often unjustified pattern of excessive force by the Albuquerque Police Department, city officials on Thursday committed to rebuilding the department under the guidance of federal officials who have been working on similar problems in other cities around the country.

    The Justice Department spent months conducting interviews, scouring videos and reviewing hundreds of pages of documents. The agency found that Albuquerque officers too frequently used deadly force on people who posed a minimal threat and used a higher level of force too often on those with mental illness, often violating their constitutional rights.

    Albuquerque is only a recent example of a city targeted by the Justice Department over allegations of brutality and violations of constitutional rights by police officers. Portland and New Orleans are among those that been investigated amid similar complaints.

    In Albuquerque, federal investigators focused on 37 shootings – 23 of them fatal – by officers since 2010. By comparison, police in the similarly sized cities of Denver and Oakland have been involved in fatal and non-fatal shootings totaling 27 and 23, respectively.

    Federal investigators found the majority of those Albuquerque shootings were unreasonable and violated constitutional rights. They also uncovered a significant number of instances in which officers used less lethal measures such as Tasers in an unconstitutional manner.

    The Justice Department recommended that Albuquerque make changes to its use of force policy to, among other things, place more emphasis on techniques for de-escalating potentially violent situations.

    Jocelyn Samuels, the acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said the investigation was thorough and that it became clear the problems within the police department were systemic.

    “The reforms we are proposing … are going to result in the kinds of structures that will over time create a change in the culture,” she said. “It starts with commitment from the top.”

    She acknowledged that changes will not happen overnight.

    The findings served as validation for critics who have long complained that a culture of aggression has permeated the Albuquerque Police Department. However, some community members voiced concerns after Thursday’s announcement that recommendations have been made in the past with city leaders failing to take action.

    Mayor Richard Berry acknowledged the findings in the report were difficult, but he said the city stands ready to work with the Justice Department to make needed changes.

    It could take weeks to hammer out the final blueprint for overhauling the Police Department, but Berry said he fully expects a federal monitor to be assigned to the city.

    “It won’t be quick and easy, but we can achieve it,” he said of the goals laid out by the Justice Department report.

    If a federal monitor is appointed and the city agrees on terms, Albuquerque would join cities such as Detroit, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Seattle that are subject to federal oversight.

    Scrutiny of the Albuquerque force is one of 15 investigations of police departments launched during President Barack Obama’s first term.

    Samuels also noted that the department’s “broken” civilian oversight process would need to be fixed.

    New Mexico’s acting U.S. Attorney, Damon Martinez, called Thursday a milestone for the city.

    “The coming days and months will determine the next generation of what policing will look like in our city,” he said. “We are at a unique time and place where the city can decisively determine the culture of the Albuquerque Police Department and its relationship with the community.”

    1. Don’t expect too much. We’ve been here before. The public memory being short, it is doubtful many substantive (training) changes will be made anytime soon. Things will die down and quiet will return until the next one, and there will be a next one before long if history is understood.


    “Federal officials made it clear that the recent shooting of James Boyd in the Albuquerque foothills by police is not part of the department’s civil findings and is being investigated separately as a criminal case. A police video recording of that shooting went viral on the Internet and ignited large street protests in Albuquerque.”

    1. There is no federal crime in this instance, so there can be no federal criminal prosecution. If the DA refuses to act, the feds may pursue a civil rights violation, but presumably someone on behalf of the deceased will do so.

    1. And what great penalty of justice is meted out by our Department of Justice for the Albuquerque Police Department’s unwarranted killing of citizens?

      “The Justice Department looks forward to working with the city and Albuquerque Police Department and the community to timely resolve these findings. Change will not occur over night, and effective reform of the Albuquerque Police Department requires a durable and sustainable blueprint for reform which will provide the structure, transparency, and accountability necessary to achieve success.”

      How many really think this is a problem solved?

  10. the most disturbed and heart broke is when the people who you trust and hired them to protected your community and its citizen had turn their back on you, shooting your own people. APD must stop the killing as well as we need a new Chief. PS> those officers must be held accountable and responsible for what they have done for the justification of Mr. Boyd and the people of New mexico and abroad…

  11. In my opinion it was murder.l wached the vidio several times, and I believe the officer’s should be held accountable.I’m a lincence firearm carry, but I allso carry maze, a collapseable baton,l myself will do everything I can not to use lethal force.there was no justification for their
    Action’s that day.wake up people! Demandjustice.the law apply’s to police allso.
    ( God bless

  12. Take your bow Ms. Martinez. You set in motion a wonderful mental illness eradication process wherein you chose to use big-game hunters to bring you back another trophy; but you should proudly display the spoils of your efforts. What’s there to investigate Ms. Martinez? Your killing of American Citizens with special needs that you care so little about? You provide no treatment, housing or food for the mentally ill so that you can enjoy the hunt and the kill that has become so prolific under your regime. Clearly most New Mexico residents hold your view and unlikely will remove you from office. Although it was a wonderful spectacle I think the odds of ever stepping foot in lovely New Mexico for me are about zero.

    You chose to blow out a mentally ill homeless man’s eardrums with a shock bomb exploded next to him, then because he doesn’t do what is spoken to him from a distance, open fire, then when he is down, shoot him a bunch more times, the let the dog tear at him a bit, all for your pleasure. Amazing.

  13. He did say that he’d walk with them. Gathered his belongings. Why was that first shot fired? He dropped his belongings and stood there until the dog came close. He reached for knife strapped to right leg when dog got close. The dog came close again and he raised his arm in defense of dog. That’s when they murdered him. All they had to do was get the dog away from him. A longer clip is out there where after he laid there dying they shot him three more times with bean bag bullets. Removed knife from hand and handcuffed a dead guy. Then they rummaged through his belongings. How in the world would the police think this was okay?

  14. allen,
    you are wrong about Darren. He has written comments on several threads that criticize police abuse. His law enforcement experience is a valued insight on these threads that discuss police actions or alleged abuse.

  15. It seemed to me that the police failed to take intermediate, non-lethal steps in handling this man.

    After 3 hours, the police appeared to escalate the situation very quickly in the absence of a threat to themselves. The flashbang may have scared the man, resulting in additional confusion. I think he was freaked out. He may have had a hearing problem exacerbated by the flashbang and not heard what the police were saying.

    Regardless, the use of lethal force was totally inappropriate because the man was not following verbal orders from the cops. The police got very impatient. Better police training would have taught them that both they and the subject, when under stress, can behave unpredictably. Training should accommodate that unpredictability.

    The homeless man is not the enemy; rather, he is a citizen of our society. Regardless of how much of a pain he was to the police at the scene, he did not deserve to be shot in the back. The police just seemed to have pent-up anger at him.

    The police were wrong. I grew up with police and firemen, and now live in a military family. There is no need for this level of violence from the police. This is not the kind of society that I want to live in.

  16. Max-1,
    I agree with you. He was shot in the back after a 3 hr stand off. The police were yelling gun gun! The yelling of gun gun in my opinion was APD trying to cover their tracks as was the flash-bang. If this man had a gun he would probably have drawn it sometime during a 3 hour stand-off! The entire thing is fishy all around. This man had previous encounters and had been arrested in the past. We don’t know how the APD got wind of where the guy was camping. I would prefer that a schizophrenic person be treated, not taken to an ‘illegal camp site’ and then shot in the back. This behavior is much more reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

Comments are closed.