Two New Mexico police officers will be charged with second-degree murder in last year's shooting death of a homeless man near a tent in the mountains where he had been camping, a special prosecutor said Monday.
James Boyd was killed during a standoff after video showed him appearing to surrender. It sparked angry demonstrations around Albuquerque with protesters calling for reform after several deadly police shootings.
Even before Boyd's death, the U.S. Justice Department had been investigating the Albuquerque Police Department over allegations of misuse of force. Federal officials harshly criticized the Police Department this year and reached an agreement to improve training and dismantle troubled departments.
Special Prosecutor Randi McGinn's office announced several charges against Officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez, including second-degree murder, which covers killings that aren't premeditated. It's punishable by 15 years in prison.
Both Sandy and Perez have denied wrongdoing.
Sandy “was protecting a fellow officer when he shot Mr. Boyd,” the officer's attorney, Sam Bregman, said. “There was no criminal intent.”
Authorities have said Boyd was schizophrenic and hadn't received proper treatment. He was holding two knives when he was shot, according to video footage.
The FBI has been investigating, but authorities haven't said whether the officers will face federal charges.
Since 2010, Albuquerque police have been involved in 40 shootings.
Critics have said that's far too many for a city of about 560,000, and Boyd's death in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains provided a flashpoint for frustration.
The protests included a demonstration in which authorities fired tear gas and another that shut down a City Council meeting.
McGinn was brought in after the Bernalillo County district attorney's office was disqualified because a judge found a conflict of interest.
McGinn's office also will seek voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault charges against the officers.