Earlier this month, James Boyd, age 38, was confronted by police officers for illegally camping in the Sandia Foothills in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After a somewhat brief standoff, Boyd and the officers had come to a peaceful agreement of sorts. “All right, don’t change up the agreement,” stated Boyd as he began to gather his belongings. “I’m going to try to walk with you.”
Before Boyd could get said opportunity to walk with the police, however, one of the officers is heard yelling, “Do it!”
As soon as the command was made, officers fired a flash-bang grenade at Boyd’s feet, disorienting the homeless man. After the grenade goes off, Boyd brandishes two knives in the air above his head, his intent being unknown. At that moment, two officers opened fire on Boyd, dropping him to the ground.
“Please don’t hurt me anymore. I can’t move,” Boyd pleaded as the officers approached his prostrate body.
Boyd would die in the hospital the next day.
It was this incident, plus the shooting and killing of another man approximately one week later, which prompted the protests in Albuquerque this Sunday.
The call for protests began when the hacktivist group Anonymous posted an online video condemning the actions of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and asking citizens to march in the streets of Albuquerque near the police department. Anonymous also vowed to take cyber-action against the police department, a task in which they succeeded in by taking down the APD website on Sunday.
While the majority of the protesting on Sunday was peaceful, tensions surged as the evening hours approached. When protesters refused to leave the streets, police officers used tear gas to disperse the crowds. According to the mayor of Albuquerque, Richard Berry, at least one officer was injured by a thrown rock and another was trapped in a vehicle by protesters.
Despite the fact that Mayor Berry believes the protests devolved into “mayhem” Sunday night, he apparently values the cause the protesters are backing, stating, “I think it’s the right thing. We need answers as a community. I want answers as a mayor,” when asked to give his opinion of the impending federal investigation into the over-use of deadly force by the APD.
Since 2010, APD officers have been involved in 36 shootings, 22 of which were fatal. During those four years, police misconduct lawsuits have also cost taxpayers a whopping $24 million.
In comparison, the city of New York has had 25 fatal police shootings in two years – albeit for a city that hosts 15 times as many citizens.
Citizens of Albuquerque and the Department of Justice are not the first bodies to act out against the magnitude of police violence, though. In 2011, the City Council of Albuquerque requested that Mayor Berry pursue a federal investigation into the APD’s use of deadly force, a request Mayor Berry vetoed. One year ago, the city also asked for the Mayor to fire the current police chief, another concern which went unnoticed.
As it currently stands, the City Council is voicing its concern once again in light of the 2014 killings.
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