Prosecutors in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said that two police officers, who were involved in shooting a homeless man with a history of mental illness in March last year, were charged with murder on Monday. The case had led to protests and a federal investigation into the practices of the police department.
According to court documents, Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez, one of whom was wearing a camera on the helmet, acted with “deliberate intention” in killing of James Boyd, 38, who was camping on the foothills of Sandia Mountains on March 16, The New York Times reported. A preliminary hearing, for which a date has not been decided yet, will be held where a judge will take a call if there is enough evidence to go ahead with criminal proceedings.
“We plan on clearing his name through the judicial process now that the district attorney has made the bad decision to drag him through this process,” said Sam Bregman, Sandy's lawyer, according to the Times, adding: “Mr. Sandy not only had the right but the duty to defend his fellow officer.”
“He probably saved that fellow officer’s life, and the idea he’s being criminally charged is disgusting,” Bergman said, according to the Times.
The FBI is also investigating the case, but it is not clear yet whether the officers will face a federal charge. The case comes amid nationwide protests against the use of excessive force by police.
"Unlike Ferguson and unlike in New York City, we're going to know. The public is going to have that information," Albuquerque District Atorney Kari Brandenburg, said, according to The Associated Press (AP).
David Correia, a police critic and an American studies professor at the University of New Mexico, said he was pleased that the charges were brought against the officers. "This is the first time an independent agency is holding Albuquerque police accountable," Correira said, according to AP.
The Albuquerque police department has been reportedly involved in 40 shootings since 2010, of which 27 were fatal.
“We trust the judicial system will provide the family, our community and the officers a fair, transparent and unbiased opportunity to explore and present the facts as they relate to this tragic event,” Albuquerque's Mayor Richard J. Berry, said, in a statement Monday, according to the Times.