Albuquerque police officer Dominique Perez and former officer Keith Sandy are no longer facing first-degree murder charges for fatally shooting a homeless man for “illegal camping.”
The charges were reduced from first-degree murder despite Sandy being caught on dashcam stating that he intended to shoot James Boyd in the penis just hours before actually shooting the 38-year-old man in his lower back as he turned around.
A special prosecutor, Randi Mcginn, has been brought into the case, announcing on Monday that her office will only pursue second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault charges.
McGinn’s accusations mean the officers did not plan the shooting death of Boyd, so the punishment is less severe.
“The penalty is dramatically reduced in the murder in the second degree charge,” said Barry Porter, a seasoned defense and civil rights attorney not involved with the case. “Murder in the second degree carries a 15 year penalty. And the judge actually has the discretion to suspend that sentence, so that the person doesn’t have to do prison.”
Sandy’s attorney, Sam Bregman, said he disagrees with McGinn’s decision to bring the charges.
“There is no justification for charging Keith Sandy with any crime,” Bregman said. “Keith was a police officer protecting a fellow officer when he shot a mentally unstable man wielding two knives. There is simply no criminal intent.”
The Albuquerque Police Officer’s Association echoed Bregman’s sentiments.
Porter said it’s no slam dunk that Sandy and Perez will be convicted.
The Albuquerque Police Department had originally claimed Boyd’s shooting was “justified,” as Boyd had made “threatening gestures”– from 30 feet away. Their outlandish claim lost even more validity after this conversation was uncovered in another officer’s dashcam footage.
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.
In a shockingly candid interview with USA Today in September, Albuquerque Police Chief Eden stated, “I believe there are people on the force who shouldn’t be on the force,” and admitted that they may be stuck with those dangerous officers; thanks to police unions making discipline for past actions extremely difficult.
The district attorney, Kari Brandenburg, who had previously charged the officers with first-degree murder has publicly stated that she feared for her safety after she filed the charges.
“I fear for my safety because other Albuquerque Police Department officers have told me that I should,” Brandenburg told local ABQ press. “I don’t think they’re going to kill me, but I have been told to fear for my safety.”
Her office was also barred from going to the scene of subsequent police shootings following the charges.
Her office was ultimately disqualified from prosecuting the case by a district judge who claimed that there was an apparent conflict of interest, as she was motivated and determined to do her job properly and get justice for Boyd.
The dashcam video is posted below along with a video of Charlie Grapski climbing to the spot where they killed Boyd to show us how isolated from the population he was when they surprised him with pointed guns.