Tuesday, July 19, 2005


An Albuquerque Journal story, July 15, 2005, reported that Albuquerque Police Department officers were cleared in two shootings. The shootings occurred in November, 2003.

The APD Oversight Commission ruled that APD officers were justified in the two fatal shootings. The Commission upheld findings of the Independent Review Officer and the Chief of Police.

One case was a domestic dispute. Two officers went to assist a woman to remove her things from an apartment. They found 20-year old Aaron Dominguez, with whom the woman had been feuding. Dominguez brandished a shotgun at the officers and shouted, “Shoot me, shoot me! You’re going to have to shoot me!” Officers shot him six times. This was found to be a justifiable homicide.

In another incident, two officers stopped a man from beating another with a bat in circumstances in which the victim was in danger of death and the offender was clearly the aggressor. The officers shouted, “Stop! Police!” The offender hit the victim again. One of the officers shot the offender twice in the back, killing him. The other officer did not fire. This case was ruled a justifiable homicide.

We are not quarreling with the findings of the Chief and I.R.O., with which the Commission concurred. But why not an inquest in such cases? Why not start the inquest testimony forthwith, that is, without unnecessary delay? At least before the funeral. Why 20 months?

The final chapter was in a public meeting of the Oversight Commission. An inquest, broadcast by video on line, would have been more open. Are there witnesses who may want or need privacy? That can be arranged if reasonably necessary, and the testimony still be had.

It is said that this “verdict” by the Oversight Commission (an approval of a determination by the Chief of Police and the Independent Review Officer) inspires confidence of the police in the Commission. What about the confidence of the public? Why not open up the proceedings, call the witnesses, and get the matter over with (except perhaps for forensic tests) within 36 hours? The New Mexico statutes already provide that the Medical Examiner may conduct an inquest, and take testimony. New Mexico Statutes Annotated, Section 24-11-7.

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