Trial For Former APD Officers Begins Today, Classes Cancelled At ABQ Middle School Over Threat

Sep 19, 2016

Police Chief Questioned About Use Of ForceThe Associated Press

Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden is the first witness to take the stand in the second-degree murder trial of two former officers accused in the 2014 on-duty shooting death of a homeless man who was mentally ill.

Prosecutors peppered the chief Monday with questions about the police department's use-of-force policies and what's required of officers when responding to calls involving people with mental illness.

Eden confirmed the department had policies at the time James Boyd was shot during an hourslong standoff that required officers to consider keeping a safe distance and avoiding quick movements that might excite such a person.

Under defense questioning, he acknowledged that department policy says such cases shouldn't be reviewed using hindsight.

A month after Boyd's death, a harsh report from the U.S. Justice Department found Albuquerque police too often used deadly force on people who posed a minimal threat and used a higher level of force on suspects with mental illness.

City and federal officials have since agreed to court-mandated reforms, including new use-of-force procedures that focus on de-escalating crisis situations.

Classes Canceled At Albuquerque School Because Of ThreatThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

Classes are canceled for the day at an Albuquerque middle school that was evacuated because of what police said was an emailed threat.

Officer Tanner Tixier said the emailed threat sent to law enforcement said there might be an explosive device or active shooter at Eisenhower Middle School but that nothing was found immediately.

The school district said earlier Monday the school was evacuated because of a bomb threat.

Tixier told the Albuquerque Journal that police took into account weekend incidents that occurred in New York City and St. Cloud, Minnesota.

District spokeswoman Monica Armenta says officials decided to cancel classes after police said their investigation might take hours.

Armenta says all but a few of the school's more than 800 students have been handed off to their parents.

Number Of Albuquerque Murder Cases Matches 2015 TotalThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

The number of homicides in Albuquerque so far this year already matches the total number of murders in 2015.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that 2015 was the deadliest year in the city since 2009, but after only 9 and a half months of 2016, this year is on track to be worse. Albuquerque Police Department detectives have investigated 46 homicides thus far in Albuquerque, the total for all of last year.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office did not provide the number of homicides it has investigated so far this year.

If homicides continue at the current rate, 2016 will see more homicides than it has since 1996, when the number hit 70.

Mayor Richard Berry says he has been talking with politicians about how to address the high rate.

New Mexico Senator, Attorney At Center Of Case ConflictAssociated Press

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office is seeking the removal of a state senator as the defense attorney in a child solicitation case.

A motion filed late last week claims Senator Lisa Torraco, a practicing attorney, told Tyler Danzer, to close an email account he allegedly used to solicit someone he believed was a 12-year-old girl.

Prosecutors say that action makes Torraco a potential witness.

Danzer is charged with child solicitation by an electronic communication device and evidence tampering.

According to court documents, Danzer used Craigslist and email in May 2015 to solicit sex with a young girl, not knowing he was corresponding with a detective.

The attorney general's office says Torraco is refusing to withdraw from the case.

A message left at Danzer's district office Sunday wasn't immediately returned.

New Mexico's Opioid Fight Not Without Campaign ContributionsAssociated Press

In a state with one of the highest drug overdose rates in the nation, there has been no shortage of campaign donations in New Mexico by the prescription drug industry and allied advocacy groups.

An investigation by The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found that drugmakers that produce opioid painkillers and their allies spent more than $880 million nationally on political contributions and lobbying over the past decade.

In New Mexico in 2012 alone, opioid makers spent $32,000 lobbying — more than double the year before.

Up for consideration that year was a bill that called for limiting initial prescriptions of opioid painkillers for acute pain to seven days. The measure was ultimately defeated.

Overall, drug companies and their employees contributed nearly $40,000 to New Mexico campaigns in 2012 — roughly 70 percent more than in previous years with no governor's race on the ballot.

Navajo Council To Meet In Special Session On Fiscal MeasuresAssociated Press

The Navajo Nation Council plans to convene a special session Wednesday in Window Rock to consider fiscal measures.

Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates announced the special session after a majority of the council's members signed a petition calling for the session.

Agenda items include legislation to establish a contingency fund for the tribe with an initial appropriation of $2.8 million.

The council will also consider a budget reallocation.

2 Police Officers Stand Trial In Fatal Albuquerque ShootingAssociated Press

Opening statements begin Monday in the long-awaited trial of two former police officers charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death mentally ill homeless man.

The March 2014 shooting ended a nearly five-hour standoff that involved 19 officers and came moments after it appeared in police video that homeless camper James Boyd might surrender.

Testimony in the trial of now-former officers Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy is expected to span 11 days.

The shooting touched off massive protests in New Mexico's largest city two years ago, and it led to calls for the U.S. Justice Department to complete an investigation into claims of excessive force among Albuquerque police.

That investigation ultimately led to an overhaul of staffing and use-of-force policies within the Albuquerque Police Department.

Judiciary Asks For More Money Amid State Budget CrunchAssociated Press

The state's judicial branch is asking for more funding as New Mexico faces a budget shortfall.

New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles W. Daniels told a committee of legislators that even modest budget cuts could impair the court system's ability to deliver justice.

Daniels said drug and treatment courts may be impacted if more funding is not approved.

A 4.8 percent increase in the judicial budget has been requested.

A spokesman for Govenor Susana Martinez said the funding requests show the judiciary is not taking the state's budget situation seriously.

The Law Offices of the Public Defender is asking for a 10 percent boost from the current funding level.

Chief Public Defender Ben Baur says the underfunded office may have to start refusing cases.

Mother Of Baby Brianna To Be Released From Prison This MonthAssociated Press

A Las Cruces mother convicted in one of New Mexico's most horrific child abuse cases will be released after serving less than half her sentence.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that corrections officials have confirmed Stephanie Rene Lopez is scheduled to leave prison Sept. 25.

Lopez was sentenced to 27 years in 2003 for negligent child abuse resulting in death after her daughter, known as Baby Brianna, died.

Brianna's father and uncle were also convicted.

Authorities say Brianna, who died in July 2002, had been sexually assaulted and suffered multiple injuries.

Public outcry led to state law now mandating 30 years in prison for child abuse resulting in death.

The Baby Brianna Foundation says it is saddened but the law cannot be enacted retroactively.