The day after a New Mexico prosecutor charged two police officers in the shooting death of a mentally ill homeless man last year, Albuquerque officials refused to allow representatives from the District Attorney’s office to participate in the investigation of a new officer-involved shooting that occurred on Tuesday.
According to KRQE, Chief Deputy District Attorney Sylvia Martinez was barred from a briefing about a shooting that occurred Tuesday evening because, she was told, the District Attorney’s office “has a conflict of interest because we charged the officers” who shot the homeless man last year.
The District Attorney’s office typically plays a vital role in investigating police-involved shootings — issuing warrants, providing legal counsel for the officers involved, and determining whether a shooting was justified — but when DA Martinez attempted to enter the briefing about Tuesday’s shooting, City Attorney Kathryn Levy told her that the officers “wouldn’t be needing any legal advice or help” and that she “could go home.”
“I have never seen anything like this ever,” District Attorney Kari Brandenburg told KRQE. “Clearly, this could compromise the integrity of the investigation of this shooting.”
In 2004, the District Attorney’s office signed an agreement with the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) that allowed it to oversee the APD’s investigation of officer-involved shootings. Last year, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry signed a settlement with the United State Department of Justice (DOJ) that implemented measures to combat the widespread use of excessive force by APD officers.
According to DA Brandenburg, the APD’s decision to exclude the District Attorney’s office from investigating Tuesday’s shooting violates both those agreements.
“It is my opinion that they violated [the agreement with the DA’s office],” she said, adding “that means they also violated their agreement with the DOJ.”
The APD recently investigated whether DA Brandenberg bribed and intimidated witnesses in a criminal case against her son, turning the case over to the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office in December. However, General Counsel David Pederson from the state Attorney General’s Office told KRQE that the investigation was “unusual,” given that no one at the AG’s Office knew about it until it was reported by the media.
“I’ve been here three years,” he said, “and I can’t remember another time when an investigatory agency just dropped something off like that. I also can’t recall a time when a police agency turned over an investigative file to the news media apparently before turning it over to a prosecuting agency. That’s unusual, and it leads to a lot of questions about what’s going on here.”