Albuquerque, New Mexico police officers Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy have been charged with murder for their part in the death of James Boyd. Sandy, a former detective, and Perez, who is a member of the SWAT team, shot Boyd in March after an hour-long standoff in the nearby foothills. The shooting drew national attention and a federal investigation.
District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said that the police officers face open murder charges. The charge lets prosecutors pursue either first- or second-degree murder. Video taken from an officer’s helmet shows Boyd apparently trying to surrender when officers opened fire. Boyd had dealt with mental illness and was holding two knives. He was homeless and had been living in the foothills in a tent.
Albuquerque residents reacted to the video with protests, some of which were violent. The video shows Boyd attempting to surrender before officers shoot a stun grenade in his direction. Boyd can be seen holding two small knives after the smoke from the grenade clears. After he does not respond to police orders, officers open fire. He yells back that he cannot move, at which point officers shoot him again.
The shooting sparked a federal investigation of Albuquerque police that found that officers had used inappropriate force on suspects, especially those with mental illness. The police department had over 36 police shootings since 2010. Investigators ordered the police department to reduce the use of deadly force a month after the Boyd shooting. However, a woman suspected of theft was shot dead only weeks later.
While investigators are confident the officers will be convicted, defense lawyers are sure that their clients are innocent. Sandy’s lawyer Sam Bregman said, “He followed his training and probably saved his fellow officer's life.” Perez’s lawyer said he was, “confident that the facts will vindicate Officer Perez's actions in this case.”