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. Bullies power trip scums cant handle a real war, they get their psychotic kicks from abusing the public and abusing their job!!!! Wimp cops make the good cops look bad!!! In 1776 they’d be shot for treason against the public!!! They are public servants for us!! What Scum in NEW MEXICO!!! World Class LOSERS!!!!

  2. I know you won’t like it, Professor…. but don’t you think it’s time for the citizenry to start shooting back?

  3. @ David, “I just don’t understand how you can’t see that this man was lied to. The LEO’s had no intention of letting this man walk out with them. They were tired of him and took action to kill him. Any reasonable person listening to Mr. Boyd would know that to attack him at that point in time would lead to Mr. Boyd’s death. It was the outcome that these LEO’s premeditated would happen. I doubt any of them expected Mr. Boyd to drop to the ground for them after having talked to them for 3 hours.”

    All supposition on my part, but I don’t think the cops intended in any way to kill him when they chose to escalate. The way I see it, they thought the flash-bang would stun him, the dog would be attacking him before he knew what happened, and they could subdue him after he took the “appropriate” beating/biting for inconveniencing them. However, it looks to me that the dog was confused or frightened by the flash-bang and hesitated in the attack, giving Boyd time to pull out his knives. The dog trainer then gets scared his dog is going to get hurt so he moves forward to get the dog out of there. Rifle armed cops then think Boyd is too close to dog handler and because they’re too skittish or too trigger happy or misperceive Boyd’s actions, they unload on him. Cops may be wrong in escalating (need to know more about what happened before video begins), wrong to send a dog to attack a guy with knives (use a taser if you have to arrest him!) or just wait him out, dog handler wrong to close distance on man armed with knives, and both shooters wrong to fire when Boyd was not charging anyone, still had a lot of distance between him and nearest officer, had police dog between him and officer, and was turning away.

  4. @ Darren, “Also, consider what any of you would have done if you were faced with a deranged person, armed with a knife, and you have no training, and he drops his bags then draws a knife and comes toward you.”

    1. I would run away and there’s no way that guy would be able to catch me.

    2. He wasn’t coming at the police. He pulled the knives when the cops escalated, fired the flash-bang grenade at him, and sent the dog to attack him. I think the knives were him defending himself against a dog attack or, at best for officers, warning them to stay back. He most definitely did not charge the officers and was turning away when shot.

    “In addition, the rancor that happend after this incident was a bit scary. People made good and lawful protest, but I saw on one news report a man carried a rifle on his shoulder in a sling to one of the demonstrations and told the reporter something to the effect of that he had the rifle to protect the protesters in case the police started trying to kill them.”

    I agree it is kind of scary. People are mad at the police. Police need to stop killing people unnecessarily or they will lose even more public trust and people will get even madder. That’s not a good thing.

  5. Lawrence O’Donnell ran the last couple of minutes on his show on Monday, I think. The f@#$% idiot cops decided it was okay to shoot this guy to kill him because he had a knife in his hand.

    The guy was lying on the ground in a prone (face-down) position, and the cops were at least 20-30 feet away when they started pumping bullets into his back.

    Does someone have to s-p-e-l-l i-t o-u-t for the cops that “knife in hand” doesn’t constitute a basis for shoot-to-kill when the guy is on the ground, face down, posing ZERO threat??? What shitty training!!!

    And now for the police brass to whitewash this conduct is yet another outrage.

    They all need to be fired, sued, and sent to federal prison. Section 1983 civil rights violation at the very least.

  6. Darren,

    I disagree with almost every word you’ve typed in defense of an indefensible wanton act of premeditated murder.

    Did we watch the same video?

    I have 2 good eyes and they can clearly see.

  7. David:

    I know your concerns but this is what the situation is.

    First, the police did not kill a man because he was camping out somewhere, or that he was homeless, or that he was mentally ill. The man was shot because he threatened officers with deadly weapons.

    Also, as far as what you are saying, the US Supreme Court ruled that defendants do not have a right to resist arrest even if the arrest is held to be unlawful. When a person threatens anyone with a weapon without lawful authority (such as put the gun down or else I will shoot situation) they do not have a right to self defense if the attacked person defends themselves.

    For others:

    Just because there was some controversial issues with APD in the past does not mean it automatically is that subsequent officer involved shootings are tainted and the officers are guilty of unlawful use of force.

    Also, consider what any of you would have done if you were faced with a deranged person, armed with a knife, and you have no training, and he drops his bags then draws a knife and comes toward you. The reliance on situations in suppositions made on the sidelines is an easy thing to do.

    To be frank, it is unfair to judge a situation such as this having no formal training of the use of force and scenarios. I can tell you I have been through a good deal of training on the issue, I have been involved in situations such as this, and I have reviewed a great many situations such as this one. I have even been one to declare a shooting to be unjustified and one that should have been prosecuted.

    Too much wrapped up in judgements based upon suppositions such as the police are out to kill innocent persons and that they are trigger happy. If this was the case, why did the police have a standoff lasting three hours?

    As for the issue of there is no proof that someone standing with a knife is no threat when he has deadly, and non-lethal pointed at him. Understand this, sometimes people who come at officers do not drop because of bean bag rounds tasers and even when shot multiple times with firearms. There have been a great many examples of this. I had one situation where a coworker was attacked with a deadly weapon and he shot the guy five times in the chest with a .40 caliber pistol and it was not until the last round the suspect ceased his threat. Moreover, please read the example with the knife I provided. That person was 15 feet away from me when he came at me and look what happened.

    Do some really believe these officers set out to kill this man? In the end they tried to subdue him with the flashbang and were going to take him down, but instead he dropped his bags, drew two knives and the officers were caught.

    Also releasing the dog at him while he is armed with two knives would have meant the K-9 might have gotten one arm but the man could have easily stabbed the K-9 and who knows what else could have happened.

    Also some are saying the officer escalated the situation by the flash bang and that the man was properly acting in self defense. That is false on its face.

    Nobody sets out to kill another person while on the police force. but yet we as civilians can sit back can call for the calls back for police to be charged with murder. Consider this, how would you have handled a situation when someone is armed with a knife? It isn’t as easy as would be thought.

    In addition, the rancor that happend after this incident was a bit scary. People made good and lawful protest, but I saw on one news report a man carried a rifle on his shoulder in a sling to one of the demonstrations and told the reporter something to the effect of that he had the rifle to protect the protesters in case the police started trying to kill them. Just think of that situation in a crowd of people. yet, he wasn’t arrested as far as I know.

    This is why it is important to let the process happen and not let crowds or emotions or suppositions draw this into an even worse situation.

    Thank you for all your input, this was a good topic to discuss for both sides.

    1. Darren, I appreciate the thoughtful reply. However, you did not address what I brought up about the police lying to him. Why did they agree to have him walk out with them, and then they suddenly attacked him?

      Mr. Boyd asked them not to attack, and he gave warning that if they attacked, he would defend himself. The LEO’s were given all the information they needed, but they chose to take a course of action that would certainly lead to this man’s death because the man made it clear that he would walk out with them, but he would not allow them to attack him.

      You wrote: “The man was shot because he threatened officers with deadly weapons.”

      This is not exactly true. The police threatened the man with deadly force, and the man did the best he could to defend himself.

      Put yourself in the man’s situation. Even though he is mentally ill, and that has to be taken into account, any person who has a vicious dog running toward him is likely to defend himself. I can tell you that I do not believe that I would go down on the ground with a raging dog running toward me. I would defend myself and take out the dog. Who in their right mind would let a vicious dog bite them and tear them to shreds? Of course, I am not mentally ill and know better than to give the LEO’s anything other than complete cooperation, so I would never be in this man’s situation. Nevertheless, I understand where the man is coming from and how he thinks, having worked with many homeless men like him.

      I just don’t understand how you can’t see that this man was lied to. The LEO’s had no intention of letting this man walk out with them. They were tired of him and took action to kill him. Any reasonable person listening to Mr. Boyd would know that to attack him at that point in time would lead to Mr. Boyd’s death. It was the outcome that these LEO’s premeditated would happen. I doubt any of them expected Mr. Boyd to drop to the ground for them after having talked to them for 3 hours.

      I sure would like to see more of the tape that was edited out, the part leading up to this tape.

  8. Those depraved fractions of human beings operating under the guise of law enforcement are guilty of murder.

  9. I saw an execution. The homeless man was finally complying with orders, gathering his stuff and starting down the hill. Then an officer fired the flash-bang. I couldn’t see any reason for that. Sure, the guy was talking crazy, but the officers already knew he was crazy. What did they expect? I didn’t see any aggressive body movements.

    I think the officer that fired the flash-bang overreacted and started the deadly process. We’ve seen this over and over again. One officer carelessly fires his weapon and all the others follow like lemmings.

    It boils down to a matter of patience. The officers had been there for hours and were probably, and justifiably, fed up. The officer firing the flash-bang was the most fed up I guess. However, getting fed up doesn’t justify deadly force. Is the importance of patience even taught at the academy?

  10. I think the fact that posters are so calmly and clinically dissecting and discussing a video that showed the real live KILLING of another human being says as much about our society today as the fact those cops a) murdered this homeless man and b)have been given a pass on said murder.
    What the hell has happened to us?!?!?!

    1. The police have not been given a pass—yet. Calmly “dissecting and discussing” this video is far more productive than any display of anger or vitriol. The confrontational angry displays recently seen against this department will not find itself leading to a resolution.

      Perhaps with thousands of reasoned responses from those of us who are outraged over this killing might lead to some form of disciplinary action. Perhaps no criminal charges will be filed and if so then I hope somehow civil actions can be taken against the department and or city.

      You asked the question: “What the hell has happened to us?” Well I can tell you that this video was very disturbing and has left a lasting impression on me. I have written to the ACLU and the Police Chief expressing my outrage in a restrained manner and if enough people do the same maybe something positive can come from this tragedy.

  11. Darren, doesn’t it bother you that the police lied to him?

    Homeless man James Boyd starts off in video talking about them dropping him off at a bar or a bus stop. Then he says, “I have the right to kill you right now because you are trying to take me over. Don’t get stupid with me.”

    Police respond, “We are not going to get stupid.”

    Homeless man James Boyd: “You said we were walking out of here, and now you are bringing up assault. And everybody’s gonna get hurt again? … Alright, don’t change up the agreement. I’m going to try to walk with you.”

    Police respond: “Alright.”

    Homeless man James Boyd says, “Locals, don’t try to harm me. Keep your word. I can keep you safe. Alright. Don’t worry about safety. I’m not a f** murderer. Alright? Try it. It’s not going to harm you. It’s not going to harm you. Alright?”

    Police: “Do it.”

    The latter part of the police video shows that James Boyd carefully put plastic over all his belongings with rocks on top of the plastic. He clearly expected to have to leave most of his things there as he walked out with the police. There is no indication that he expected to kill these officers. His bags were packed to go with them. The police escalated the confrontation, and when the man turned to move away from the violence, the police shot him in the back. It was getting dark and they obviously wanted the situation to end according to their terms, even if it meant killing the man.

    I understand your sympathy concerning the danger situations like this pose to the officers, but I would hope you re-evaluate your position on this case. The man’s crime is camping where some law says he can’t camp? For that he deserves to die? I have a huge problem with how the police handled this situation. Mr. Boyd was treated with no respect, and the police lied to him concerning their agreement for Mr. Boyd to walk out with them.

  12. @ Darren, “For at least the last twenty years, it has been common training and studies have shown that a person within twenty one feet, armed with a knife is presents a high probability a suspect will be able to attack an officer with success.”

    This is incorrect. The study you are referring to is for an officer WITH A HOLSTERED GUN. It takes time to draw a handgun and point it an attacker. In this case, there were multiple officers with rifle already trained on the suspect. There is no study that says a person 20 feet away and armed with a knife can successfully charge and attack a person armed with a gun already aimed at the attacker. There is no such study because it is not true.

  13. So, the homeless man brought a knife to a gun fight? Not as I see it. APD officers have shot mentally disturbed folks with frightening regularity over the past 10 years. Don’t expect much to change, however, as the FBI will whitewash this event, the review board will find justification just as the chief did, and the shootings will continue. Pretty scary bunch, the young LEO’s that APD hires fresh back from Afghanistan, and it pays to walk softly when they are around.

  14. Over zealous criminals hiding behind law enforcement badges.

  15. Darren:

    I usually agree with you, at least in sentiment, but here I absolutely do not.
    Your analysis and assessment is what they would call “blinding me with science.”
    Essentially distracting with a dozen minor details, seemingly important by the framing of them, that still don’t add up to the most practical and straightforward interpretation of what is reality there.

    These are POLICE, professionals that are supposed to interact with American civilians, not military assault teams that must have the standard of extreme action and response.
    The difference between them is significant in domestic law enforcement theory. They are there to keep the peace, deescalate threats, protect others, and see that justice is served.
    For this they need to have a professional, and thick skinned approach to recalcitrant, even insane people. They have to be able to assess the difference between being told verbally, “I am going to kill you”, and actually making a substantive action in that direction.
    This is not a land where if you verbally threaten a police officer, that they now have probable cause to use lethal force.

    And that is what happened here. They knew he was violent, but not deadly, they knew he was mentally disturbed and paranoid, and they knew he was complying.
    But he verbally threatened them with vague allusions, and responded to an initial attack from them in a fashion that as anyone would, they then escalated the situation by flashbanging him and sending a K9 at him.
    He brandishes a 4 inch pocket knife, and that they use that as false justification to kill him.
    After they kill him, they use non-lethal force.

    Really now, just look at it from a common sense POV.

    1. Gary T,

      Well put and an excellent summary describing the difference between police and military units. Police and military have a commonality of carrying weapons; however, they have far different training with widely contrasting strategy and operational tactics that are mutually exclusive in our society.

  16. The Albuquerque police department is filled with ignorant and murderous thugs who should never be allowed to carry firearms. These stupid pigs are typical of the increasing militarization of America”s police force. When will the citizens of Albuquerque demand an independent police review board with the power to fire rogue coops?

  17. Interesting comments. Ultimately a man died because he camped in a spot not approved of. Sad and sickening that we have come to this.

  18. Thank you Wayne

    Kudos to your and your son’s service. I like you wish this situation in New Mexico had a better ending.

  19. Known mental man…. Says it all…one way to …. Get rid of the homeless…. The mental…. The non white….etc….

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