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. Enough such mercy killings, and mental illness will be eradicated?

    Beautiful! The cure for mental illness is simple! It worked for Germany prior to the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939?

    Quick! Call the National Institute of Mental Health! The cure for schizophrenia has been perfected!

    The magic bullet, long sought by scientific psychiatry, is now clearly demonstrated!

  2. You’ve gotta wonder when the jihad to remove NM LEOs will take full swing. This is no accident. This is war. Prempt!

  3. The officers in this case in New Mexico acted like chickenshits in the first degree. No one disputes the hazards involved in these confrontations, but these guys took over precaution to the extreme. It was like watching a cheesy movie where the cops are a gang of gutless incompetents

  4. Lrobby99: 43 year old Craig Taylor, was charged with reckless conduct, a class 4 felony, in the shooting death of 95 year old John Wrana

  5. This was an ample opportunity for the cops to put their training into actual use. I bet they all were excited to finally get to pull their weapons out and fire at such a threat to society. Heroes 🙂

  6. These are not rogue cops, they’re normal cops. Causing annoyance to cops has always been a capital offense. Shot trying to escape was true now, in 1880, in 1776, from the first days of the Peelers.

    The death penalty was obviously appropriate in this situation because:
    1) Sleeping while poor.
    2) Sleeping while brown.
    3) Causing the poor cops to have to mess around with someone who is both of the above.
    4) Trying to escape carrying all your belongings uphill.
    5) Showing a knife to someone wearing a bullet proof vest and armed with a nightstick, pepper spray, taser, handgun and shotgun. That knife looked pretty scary.
    6) He almost hurt my dog!

    For all these reasons the chief was correct in supporting his men. After all, the police deserve the public’s respect and admiration. And the public must also be reminded that the cops can shoot you any time they want to and get away with it.


    He turns to proceed to place hands onto ground as if to “GET ON THE GROUND” and then they fire kill shots into his back.

    Who keeps the people safe FROM the police?

  8. Shot in the back…
    … Because he was advancing on the police?

    Shot in the back…
    … Because he was chasing them with knives?

    Shot in the back…
    … By an officer in front of him?

    Shot in the back…
    … After the K-9 was let loose on him?

    Shot in the back…
    … Because he was attempting to cooperate?

    Shot in the back…
    … Because he dropped his duffle bag the K-9 went after and was attempting to pick it up?

    Shot in the back…
    … Who keeps the people safe from being shot in the back by the police?

    Shot in the back…

  9. Kill shots all delivered into his back while he was walking away from them. Albuquerque PD definition of imminent lethal threat??

  10. Wayne:

    Yes you are completely correct about the McDonald’s hot coffee issue. In fact, I remember that there were other lawsuits against the company before the woman you mentioned and it was clear it was a problem greatly ignored. I think there might have been a couple more incidents since.

    Co-incidentally, I had to serve on a jury in a civil case many years ago or so. In the voir dire questioning one of the attorneys asked me about the McDonald’s incident and if I thought it was fair to award a person whatever million dollars she received. I said it was considering how McDonald’s completely disregarded the previous complaints and continued with their unsafe practices and the only way to make a corporation the size of McDonald’s understand the gravity of their error was a large judgement because a small one would not necessarily deter their misbehavior. I guess they were ok with that answer because I ended up serving on the jury.

    With the other cases about the APD issue, as mentioned in Professor Turley’s post, that is the comparison between the amounts of shootings compared with NYPD. Unless there is a tremendously dangerous difference, which I doubt there is. This is something that should be looked into by the FBI.

    I don’t know the specifics of those other cases, but if there was a pattern of questionable shootings then it is most likely a systemic issue most often related to either indifferent management, one that sweeps things under the rug, or one that supports this type of uses of force. I spoke a few hours ago with an associate of mine who is a retired officer on his take of the stats with the number of shootings in APD compared with other areas. His gut feeling, though he had nothing to prove this so understand this is only speculative on his part, that probably most of the incidents will be held to be at least excusable but he strongly believed several of them would not be held to be justified. He concurred the FBI investigation was necessary either way, exonerate or find problems. I can assure you the FBI will do a thorough investigation that will be neutral. We can see what comes out there.

    You are right about another issue. I hope that people don’t go too far with this shooting and use this as a clarion call for more violence.

  11. Wayne is right that the best way to get action in Albuquerque is to hit them in the pocketbook if the city refuses to control the police force.

  12. All this hatin’ on NM. It is a great state. It has great culture, great food, great people, great history. IT HAS SOME BAD COPS! What f@ckin’ state doesn’t??

  13. Wayne, the first person who has brought up the hot coffee lawsuit who “gets it”.

    1. Thank you. There was an excellent documentary on this incident with graphic photos of her injuries. This woman was seriously burned in a very delicate and sensitive area which required more than one skin transplant. The pain she suffered was intense and just the act of urinating caused her significant pain. People joke about this but she suffered third degree burns and was in significant pain for a long period of time.

  14. I was in NM in 2000 for several months. There were many billboards that were looking for police recruits using a very militaristic theme. It was scary. What Albuquerque now has is the result of that hiring.

  15. Paul,

    That will only make things a magnitude worse. This type of violence is unwarranted as it puts one at the same level as those who killed James Boyd. Shooting people to right a wrong doesn’t work…remember the proverb: “He who seeks vengeance must dig two graves, one for his enemy and one for himself.”

    If James Boyd has any relatives they need to sue the pants off everyone they can. That is what will work and will get the needed attention from the civic leaders.

    Do you remember the hot coffee incident with McDonalds that happened a number of years ago? They continued serving near boiling coffee after thousands of complaints and hundreds of injuries. They simply didn’t care. Along came an elderly woman who was handed a cup of their boiling coffee, spilled it on and near her genital areas resulting in third degree burns requiring several skin transplants. She sued and won a huge multi-million dollar judgement. Jury members were interviewed after the trial and expressed disgust with McDonalds for disregarding the myriad number of burn injuries without making one single effort to change. The Jury indicated that they felt the only way to get McDonalds’ attention was to award a large monetary settlement against them. It worked, they no longer serve near boiling coffee.

    People need to start law suits against Albuquerque until the city has to raise property and sales taxes to pay for all the damages. Just like at McDonalds that will work.

  16. Eden proclaims “We are proud of the way in which we interact with the community in our continuing collaborative combative problem solving efforts.”


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