The trouble with Albuquerque according to the DOJ


Damon Martinez, the acting U.S. attorney, listens to the results of the Department of Justice’s investigation into the Albuquerque Police Department on April 10 in Albuquerque, N.M. (AP Photo/Albuquerque Journal, Marla Brose)

It was Jan. 9, 2010.

Aaron Renfro, 32, was riding in a car with two other men when an Albuquerque police officer pulled them over for speeding.

Police said he gave them a fake name, one that had a warrant out for it. And, when they told him to get out of the car, he started running.

Police yelled at him to stop.

He pulled out a gun.

Police fatally shot him, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Fast-forward to March 25, 2014.

Police officers were dispatched after getting a 911 call from a 14-year-old girl who said, “There’s a guy and he’s drunk and he has a gun. He pointed the gun at me.”

Police said 30-year-old Alfred Redwine fired at least one round at them before they shot him. Witnesses said he was holding a gun to his own head — not pointing it at the cops.

Both men died. Between the time of their deaths, at least 21 others died as well, according to news reports.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice said at least 37 times in the last four years, Albuquerque police have mishandled threats with guns, killing 23 and injuring 14 others. After a 16-month civil-rights investigation, it determined that the department is using excessive force, “including the use of unreasonable deadly force” in an unconstitutional manner.

It found that the majority of fatal shootings by police the past four years were unjustified because, in some cases, officers thought suspects were armed and often used deadly force.

In remarks prepared for a news conference, Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels said:

Our investigation looked at officer-involved shootings that resulted in fatalities from 2009 to 2012 and found that a majority of them were unreasonable and violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We found that officers used deadly force against people who did not pose an immediate threat of death or serious harm to officers or others, and against people who posed a threat only to themselves.  In fact, sometimes it was the conduct of the officers themselves that heightened the danger and escalated the need to use force.

The police union in Albuquerque has long defended officers’ actions, saying they are overwhelmed with cases involving people who are mentally ill and dangerous. On Thursday, Stephanie Lopez, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association, said in a statement that she looks forward to learning from the Justice Department’s findings, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Albuquerque Journal constructed a timeline of the killings that ignited riots last month in downtown Albuquerque.

Here’s the rundown:

Jan. 9, 2010: Aaron Renfro.

Jan. 13, 2010: Kenneth Ellis.

March 29, 2010: Mickey Owings.

June 10, 2010: Chris Hinz.

June 14, 2010: Julian Calbert.

July 27, 2010: Len Fuentes.

Aug. 17, 2010: Enrique Carrasco.

Oct. 19, 2010: Daniel Gonzales.

Oct. 31, 2010: Alexei Sinkevitch.

Feb. 9, 2011: Jacob Mitschelen.

April 12, 2011: Christopher Torres.

May 10, 2011: Alan Gomez.

June 4, 2011: Raymond Garcia.

Aug. 30, 2011: Michael Marquez.

Jan. 4, 2012: Mark Macoldowna.

March 19, 2012: Daniel Tillison.

March 21, 2012: Gary Atencio.

March 5, 2013: Parrish Dennison.

March 19, 2013: Kendall Carroll.

July 5, 2013: Vincent Wood.

Oct. 26, 2013: Christopher Chase.

Dec. 8, 2013: Andy Snider.

March 16, 2014: James Boyd.

March 25, 2014: Alfred Redwine.

The Justice Department recommends putting a system in place to train, supervise and discipline officers when they are given a firearm “to ensure they do not engage in excessive force.”

Lindsey Bever is a national news reporter for The Washington Post. She writes for the Morning Mix news blog. Tweet her: @lindseybever
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