Albuquerque police chief: Officer's comments before fatal shooting were 'unacceptable'



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ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — An Albuquerque police officer's comments before a March fatal shooting that sparked a protest and FBI investigation were "completely unacceptable," said the city's police chief.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Chief Gorden Eden said officer Keith Sandy violated department policy when he used profanity to describe James Boyd before Sandy and another officer killed the 38-year-old mentally ill homeless man.

Sandy's comments were captured by a New Mexico State Police dashboard camera March 16, around two hours before the shooting at Boyd's Sandia foothills campsite. Police released the recording Monday.

"The recording that everyone has heard is completely unacceptable," Eden told the AP. "We have policies that strictly prohibit that type of actions, those types of behavior."

In the recording, Sandy is heard using foul language and telling a State Police sergeant that Boyd was a "lunatic" whom he planned to shoot. The sergeant later said Sandy was referring to using a stun gun.

However, a lawyer representing the Boyd family in a lawsuit against the city said she believed Sandy said in the recording he was going to shoot Boyd with a shotgun.

Previously released video of that shooting — and more than three dozen other police shootings since 2010 — generated violent protests in Albuquerque, and FBI then launched an investigation into the Boyd case. In the video, Boyd appeared to be surrendering from his campsite when officers opened fire.

Since the shooting, Sandy has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the federal probe. He has been ordered not to talk to media about the shooting.

Sam Bregman, Sandy's attorney, did not immediately return a phone message Tuesday from the AP.

Eden said he was especially disturbed by Sandy's vulgar reference to Boyd's mental health before the deadly encounter. But he did not say if Sandy would face any additional disciplinary action since the shooting still is under investigation by the FBI.

Eden said the department has a long road ahead to regain public trust after a U.S. Justice Department gave a harsh report into the Albuquerque agency's use of force and cases like the Boyd shooting.

"I would hope that the tape by itself, that people would understand ... that is not a reflection of the entire department," Eden said, referring to the recent recording.

The city of Albuquerque and Justice Department are finalizing a plan for police reforms.


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