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Longtime Activist Talks New DA’s Decision Not To Re-Try Officers

Marisa Demarco / KUNM
Andres Valdez

Last fall, a jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict for the two former Albuquerque Police Department Officers facing murder charges for shooting and killing homeless camper James Boyd. And that left the door open for another trial. 

New Bernalillo County DA Raul Torrez announced he would not re-try the case a few weeks into his term. We reached out to Torrez for an interview about this decision, but he declined.

KUNM spoke with longtime activist Andres Valdez of Vecinos United about the decision and how it fits historically into a decades-long story about police violence in Albuquerque.

VALDEZ: I don’t care what kind of a spin Raul Torrez puts on it, this case is an open-and-shut case any way you look at it. It’s clear that he’s continuing with the same old policy of condonement of murder by police. He’s allowing police officers to murder citizens, well, this particular one.

KUNM: What he said was that, you know, the case was already tried. The jury didn’t return a guilty verdict, and there’s not any new evidence. So that’s why he says he’s not going to retry it.

VALDEZ: It all depends on how the evidence was presented. I really think he can definitely win this case if he tried. I mean the whole world saw a murder. How can he say there’s not enough evidence? I’m concerned he’s going to justify every single shooting the way the former DA did and the way every single DA does across this country.

KUNM: So when you think about police shootings in Albuquerque, is it significant to you that police officers here faced second-degree murder charges? Do you think that’s progress?

VALDEZ: They only did it because there was such an outrage. They would have never charged these guys with anything. They would have gone through their process of either deciding behind closed doors that the shooting was justified, or they would have gone to a grand jury to come up with a decision that the shooting was justified.

But they had to do something. Who knows what could have happened if they wouldn’t have countered by coming up with something decent?

It’s really questionable what these guys think and what’s really going on in all that secrecy.

KUNM: So police have shot fewer people in recent years in Albuquerque. Do you think APD is heading in the right direction?

VALDEZ: They continue to shoot people. They’ve maybe shot less people. And some of the guys that got shot obviously deserved it. I mean, carrying a gun and shooting at people, you know, stealing people’s cars and hijacking people. I mean, yes, there are many justified shootings. And I have to say this: We have a lot of good police officers in the police department. This is not an indictment against the whole police department. This is an indictment against its leadership.

KUNM: Vecinos United has been working on issues of police violence in Albuquerque for decades. How have you seen the public awareness of police violence shift over time?

VALDEZ: Because we count on police to protect us from thieves breaking into our houses, breaking into our cars, most people are willing to give up their human and civil rights to have police protection. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can give and should give credit to the police department for all of the wonderful things they do. I thank God we have a good police department and we have good police officers. But it doesn’t mean we have to condone human and civil rights violations. And people really need to make that distinction.

KUNM: I’ve heard from folks who feel worn down by stories about police violence. Since you’ve been working on this for so long, for so many years, for decades, what do you do to combat that kind of fatigue?

VALDEZ: People become fatigued because they don’t see a solution to the problem. They’re circled by this hopelessness, this “What do we do?” And when people get shot and killed by police unjustifiably or beat up, your first reaction is: I’m outraged. And we need to transcend from being outraged to “Oh, what are we going to do about it?”

To fight against burnout, let’s shoot the arrow straight at the bull’s-eye. That means getting rid of a few police chiefs, a few mayors, a few city councilors, holding these guys accountable. Let’s take back our country.  

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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