Albuquerque cops charged with murder in fatal shooting of homeless man at campsite

A New Mexico prosecutor has bypassed a grand jury and filed murder charges Monday against two Albuquerque police officers who shot and killed a mentally ill homeless man last year at his illegal campsite.

James Boyd had been camping March 16 in a restricted area in the foothills above the city after homeless shelters were closed, friends said.

Police negotiated for nearly five hours with the 36-year-old Boyd before an officer fired a flash-bang grenade at the homeless man, who appears disoriented and grabs a knife.

Boyd, who was a paranoid schizophrenic, was shot to death after taking a step toward officers.

KRQE reported that District Attorney Kari Brandenburg would file open murder charges against Dominique Perez, a SWAT officer, and former detective Keith Sandy, who retired from the department eight months after the fatal shooting.

The charges were announced Monday morning.

Albuquerque has one of the highest rates of police shootings in the nation, but the murder charges would be the first time an officer with the department had faced criminal charges for shooting someone in the line of duty.

New Mexico law permits prosecutors to file charges without a grand jury indictment, although the practice is rare.

The officers will be permitted to contest the charges at a preliminary hearing, and a District Court judge will then decide whether there is probable cause to bind the cases over for trial.

A jury would consider a range of charges – including voluntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum six-year prison term, to first-degree murder, which carries a possible life sentence.

Watch video from the shooting posted online by KRQE-TV: