Two Albuquerque police officers who shot and killed a homeless man have been charged with murder, prosecutors said Monday.
Former detective Keith Sandy and officer Dominique Perez will both face a single count of murder in for the death of James Boyd, 38. Boyd was a mentally unstable man who was illegally camping in foothills outside Albuquerque.
Investigators said Perez and Sandy fatally shot Boyd, who was allegedly holding a knife, during a standoff on March 16, 2014. Video of the event captured by an officer’s helmet showed Boyd appearing to surrender before the officers fired.
Sandy’s attorney Sam Bregman told The Associated Press that the decision to bring charges against the officers was “unjustified,” stating Sandy acted appropriately.
“He followed his training and probably saved his fellow officer’s life,” Bregman said.
Luis Robles, Perez’s lawyer, said, “Sadly, this day has come. Regardless, I am confident that the facts will vindicate Officer Perez’s actions in this case.”
Because Second District Attorney Kari Brandenburg did not use a grand jury to bring an indictment against the officers, there will be a preliminary hearing so a judge can determine if there is sufficient evidence for a criminal trial. Brandenburg stated that no preliminary hearing has been scheduled yet for Sandy and Perez.
The FBI is still investigating the incident, but federal authorities have not stated if they will bring federal charges against the officers.
Boyd’s death sparked numerous protests last spring in the Albuquerque area, some which turned violent. The incident occurred during a federal investigation into Albuquerque’s police department practices.
A year-long examination found Albuquerque police had wrongly killed suspects and used excessive force on those with mental illness on several occasions. The department has had over three dozen police-involved shootings since 2010.
Albuquerque city officials recently signed an agreement with the justice department to provide better training for police officers and to disassemble problematic police units.