Public Records Again Expose Albuquerque Police Misconduct
Once again the use of public records laws by citizens pays off by exposing wrongdoing by public officials – in this case police officers. Despite the attempts by the City of Albuquerque to deny records lawfully required to be produced persistence paid off. Video evidence that has been obtained from the James Boyd murder, on March 16th, reveals far more of what really happened that day.
Albuquerque Police Officer Keith Sandy Vowed To Shoot James Boyd In The Penis Before Police Shot And Killed The Homeless Man For Camping In The Foothills.
In particular it reveals that Officer Keith Sandy, who was hired with the explicit public assurance that he would never carry a badge or gun but would only “push papers” behind a desk (he was fired for inappropriate activity from the New Mexico State Police), did not merely shoot and kill James Boyd that day. (See: Cop Involved in Sunday Shooting had Rocky Past, Performance at APD)
Several hours before he shot Boyd three times, at point blank range, with an M-4 Assault Rifle – Sandy stated to a former colleague, New Mexico State Police Sergeant Chris Ware, that he was “going to shoot him with [unintelligible] a shotgun here in a second.”
He made this statement despite the fact that he had not even seen Boyd or obtained anything but a cursory statement of the issues pertaining to the incident.
That statement, under NM Stat § 30-2-1 (1996 through 1st Sess 50th Legis), could justify not just a charge – but a conviction – forFirst Degree Murder.
After the March shooting and killing of James Boyd for camping in the foothills east of Albuquerque KRQE News requested the body camera videos from the incident. Fifteen days later they were denied their request claiming an exemption that did not exist under the law.
Despite the law’s required “immediate” production (NM Stat § 14-2-8(D) (1996 through 1st Sess 50th Legis) the routine practice for the Albuquerque Police is to presume, unlawfully, that they have fifteen days to respond.
The legislature has defined THREE days as a reasonable time for fulfillment by production of the records under the “immediate” requirement and allowed, in certain justifiable cases, for that time to be extended to FIFTEEN days. It is clearly not establishing that the agency has fifteen days to merely “respond.”
ALBUQUERQUE DENIAL OF KRQE REQUEST FOR BOYD VIDEOS
This is the same unlawful denial that was attempted with the Incident Reports more recently in Ferguson, Missouri regarding the shooting of unarmed Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson.
Much as I did in Ferguson – directly challenging the unlawful denial to the ACLU – I directly challenged the City of Albuquerque over the KRQE denial.
I was intending on filing that challenge, via a request, in March – but first wanted a copy of the request and denial (The record I obtained that is embedded above – after three months of continued demands for its “immediate” production.).
When it became clear that I was not going to get those records in a reasonable time, while I was in Albuquerque, I organized a series of requests directly for the audio and video of the incident.
REQUEST FOR AUDIO & VIDEO OF JAMES BOYD KILLING
The request was not simply a request – it was a statement, even a lesson, in the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA), meant to establish a record – a paper-trail – demonstrating that the officials knew the law and so could not claim otherwise. And I directly challenged the claimed exemption relied upon for KRQE and proved it was not valid.
Rather than deny these requests the Police Department remained silent. Again for months – during which time I did not relent but persistently asserted the right to the records – and at minimum a response.
On June 26th that persistence finally paid off. They produced the records – or at least some of them.
RESPONSE AND PRODUCTION OF AUDIO & VIDEO OF JAMES BOYD KILLING
In addition to a CAD Report (Computer Aided Dispatch) that was clearly incomplete I received three DVDs with audio and video files.
Not to be too helpful to the public the City and Police Department refused – despite numerous requests – to provide information as to what each file was. They simply sent the files without any indication of the officer or the time – information that I know they had and were required to provide.
DIRECTORY OF DISC 3 FROM BOYD AUDIO & VIDEO REQUEST
Directory Of APD Disc 3 Boyd Video & Audio
Contained on the disc were a set of body camera videos that the Police Department claimed was a complete set of all videos that existed. In addition there was a set of audio files that they claimed was a complete set of the interviews conducted to determine whether the shooting by the officers was justified. There were also the Coban videos (Dash Camera) from two New Mexico State Police officers and in the Investigation files the Belt Tape of one of those officers.
It was immediately clear to me that not all of the video files were provided. It had already been a scandal that the Department claimed that the key shooter, Keith Sandy, did not have video from his camera. They claimed the camera malfunctioned – but Taser could not find any problem with the equipment. Nor could they recover any video from it. And this was not the first time Sandy did not produce the required Body Camera videos when he was accused of abuse of force. (See APD: No Video Recovered from Officer in Boyd Shooting)
But there was one notorious video – seen by the entire world when produced by the Chief at a press conference in which it was used to claim the shooting was justified. That video came from the camera of the second shooter, Dominique Perez, yet not only was that particular clip not provided – not a single one of the videos from Perez was produced. Yet we know – without doubt – that they did exist.
DOMINIQUE PEREZ VIDEO: BOYD SHOOTING CLIP
I spent the past few months studying and analyzing these video and audio files and have been able to identify each video by officer, place it in sequence of that officer’s actions that day, and synchronize each officer’s videos with the others. I have also been able to identify each officer by name – and thus to compare that to the officers known to be at the scene – and thereby to determine what officers’ videos are missing.
I have placed most of these files on a YouTube Playlist which can be found here:
PLAYLIST: AUDIO & VIDEO FILES FOR BOYD SHOOTING
I was also able to uncover the fact that rather than releasing the videos, when requested, the Police Department assigned a team of civilians in the Real Time Crime Center, under the direction of Kevin Fuller, the Director of the APD Video Unit, to review all videos before any were released – to the public or the FBI – and to identify any video or audio that would be “problematic” to the APD or that showed the killing.
KEVIN FULLER, DIRECTOR OF APD VIDEO UNIT, INVESTIGATIVE INTERVIEW
At one point Fuller, who was investigated as part of the internal investigation into the justification of the shooting, revealed that he was directed to destroy the copies of the videos he had placed in a DropBox and all other records related to it. APD was trying to pre-screen the videos and located those that they did not want to release to the public. Yet such an activity – is a criminal violation of the law. It is clear, however, from the public records provided, that the Police did just that.
Despite the unlawful withholding and other games of the Police to make it difficult – what they did provide revealed many troubling facts about both the shooting and the handling of it within the department after the fact.
Perhaps nothing is more shocking – or potentially significant in bringing an ultimate criminal indictment against Keith Sandy – than the one revealed on the Coban Dash Camera recording of NMSP Sergeant Ware.
Ware was interviewed by the investigators immediately after the killing, on March 16th, at the home of Alexander Thickstun, who called the police to report Boyd camping in the hills in the distance behind his home.
MARCH 16th INVESTIGATION INTERVIEW OF NMSP SGT CHRIS WARE
At that time the investigators did not have his and thus had not reviewed his dash camera video.
But by April someone in the Albuquerque Police Department had obtained and reviewed the video. And they saw something controversial. Something the investigators themselves found to be significant.
Keith Sandy, hours before fatally shooting Boyd, and before even evaluating the situation referred to Boyd as a “fucking lunatic” and stated that he was going to shoot him.
On April 1st APD Detective H. Cage called Sgt. Ware back for a follow-up interview. It lasted approximately eleven minutes and had a single focus: What did he remember Sandy saying to him when he arrived on the street near the scene.
APRIL 1st FOLLOW-UP INVESTIGATION INTERVIEW OF SGT CHRIS WARE (NMSP)
At first Ware claims he remembered nothing – except that the officer he first encountered was Keith Sandy. He knew him well from Sandy’s former employment with his agency.
The investigator continues and allows Ware to view the video from his Dash Camera. Ware states that he clearly hears Sandy state that he is “going to shoot him with a shotgun.”
The investigator presses further – did he say anything more than that?
Ware knew exactly what the investigator was inquiring about. Yet he plays dumb through this point. Later in the interview he reveals that someone had told him that Sandy said he was going to “shoot him [Boyd] in the nuts.”
“Where they got you guys going, what have they got you guys doing?” asked Sandy.
“I don’t know, the guy asked for State Police?” replied Ware.
“Who asked for you?” asked Sandy.
“I don’t know,” replied Ware.
“This f***** lunatic? (unintelligible) I’m going to shoot him with (unintelligible) shotgun here in a second,” replied Sandy.
“You’ve got uh.. less lethal?” asked Ware.
“I got uh… I just said…” replied Sandy.
“The TASER shotgun?” asked Ware.
“Yeah!” replied Sandy.
“Oh. I thought you guys got rid of those?” asked Ware.
This is what can be heard on the audio from the video. The problem is the audio gets very difficult to follow right at the key moment of the sensational aspect that some hear on it. Two loud clicks, with a spike in the audio spectrum, surround the statement that he intends on shooting Boyd with a particular word barely audible. It appears to begin with a “P” but it is unclear what it is. The investigator states, at one point, that the word “pecker” may be there. Another Albuquerque News Station, KOB News, believes the word is “penis.”
Sandy: What do they have you guys doing here?
Ware: I don’t know. The guy asked for state police.
Sandy: Who asked?
Ware: I don’t know.
Sandy: For this f***ing lunatic? I’m going to shoot him in the penis with a shotgun here in a second.
Ware: You got uh less-lethal?
Sandy: I got…
Ware: The Taser shotgun?
Ware: Oh, I thought you guys got rid of those?
Sandy: ROP’s got one…here’s what we’re thinking, because I don’t know what’s going on, nobody has briefed me…
(See APD Officer Makes Remark About Shooting James Boyd 2 Hours Before Shooting)
We also know that someone in the Albuquerque Police Department believed it said something of that nature.
This is the clip as isolated and attempted to be cleaned up (one of three) and used at some point in the investigation.
APD INVESTIGATION ENHANCED CLIP 3 OF SANDY-WARE CONVERSATION
I encourage anyone reading this with skills in the area of audio analysis or enhancement to see if they can clean this audio up further and better determine the word used or whether there is any indication that the audio has been tampered with.
Keith Sandy was interviewed as well. But his initial interview was conducted several days after the shooting. He has clearly been given videos from the incident to review to “prep” for his interview – which raises a number of questions and concerns on its own.
MARCH 18th INVESIGATION INTERVIEW OF KEITH SANDY (APD)
Apparently Sandy was called back again, in light of the discovery from the Ware video, on April 7th.
He stated to the investigators that he in fact said, ‘I’ll shoot him in the pecker with this and call it good,” it was – he declared – “just Locker Room banter” – but later seemed to have a lapse in his memory.
What is interesting is the fact that the second Sandy interview was not produced – unlawfully – with the records I received. Perhaps unwittingly, however, they did provide me the follow-up interview of Ware, their three attempts to isolate the clip and enhance the audio, and the Ware Dash Camera.
Ware, who clearly knew what the investigator was looking for, continued to deny that this was what was said. At first he did not remember anything (but knew what he was being asked about). Then after hearing the audio he said he could clearly hear him say he was going to “shoot him with a shotgun.”
Clearly Ware, when Sandy made that statement – whatever form it took – was uncomfortable. He then fumbled for words to ask Sandy to clarify – he asks “Um, you have less-lethal?”. Upon which Sandy, who was not even supposed to be involved in the Boyd incident as a member of the Repeat Offender Unit (ROP), stated that he has a Taser (brand) Shotgun. Ware is taken aback again thinking that the APD no longer had or used those weapons. ROP had one, Sandy said, and he was the guy with it.
After listening to the recording with headphones Ware adds the word “Taser” to what he then claims he hears Sandy say. “I’m going to shoot him with a TASER shot-gun” he then insists is what he hears.
But as hard as it is to determine what word is used, including being difficult to confirm its says “penis,” it clearly is not the word “Taser.”
Making it more difficult it appears that the prior word is not “in” but “with” – but again there needs to be more work done with the audio to see if it can be clarified any further before there can be a more firm determination of what is that particular word.
As sensational as the “shoot him in the penis” statement is, however, it is not necessary to establish in order to see the kind of legal liability that Sandy’s statements suggest.
His derogatory statement about Boyd’s mental status indicates – and more of what he says later along with the others involved in the ultimately deadly assault at the moment Boyd agrees to pick up his bags and walk off of the hill – shows he knew that the individual had such a condition.
That he says he is going to “shoot” – regardless of how it is qualified – when he has never seen Boyd let alone assessed the situation, is, more significantly, evidence of a “willful,” or “deliberate,” or “premeditated” act – the kind of evidence that supports a charge and conviction for First Degree Murder.
Sandy, however, remains uncharged. He still carries a badge and a gun. And has been on paid administrative leave since the killing.
One thing is clear from this case, however. If it were not already known and understood how potentially powerful the public records law is – this case should demonstrate that clearly.
These laws, when used (and enforced), provide the much needed transparency in government and allow the public to hold their officials accountable to them and under the law.
UNEDITED COBAN DASH CAMERA RECORDING OF NMSP SGT CHRIS WARE