ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The Albuquerque Police Department came under new scrutiny Wednesday after officers shot and killed a man outside a public housing complex in the second deadly encounter between police and citizens in the last 10 days.
Police said the man was shot Tuesday night after he opened fire on officers responding to a frantic call from a woman who said the suspect had pointed a gun at two girls. The family of the man, identified as Alfred Redwine, however, insisted he was not armed and only had a cellphone in his hand.
The department was already facing heavy backlash after the March 16 foothills shooting of a homeless camper, James Boyd, who, in a video released by police, appeared to turn away just before he was shot. Boyd, who police said threatened officers with knives, later died.
Redwine's shooting came just hours after hundreds of people took to the streets to protest Boyd's shooting, the 36th shooting involving Albuquerque police since 2010.
Critics told Crimesider the March 16 incident raised alarming questions about the department's use of force, saying police viewed Boyd as "kind of the enemy...in a combat situation."
Amid the rash of questionable police shootings, the state's main law enforcement academy has changed its cadet curriculum aimed at helping reduce deadly force encounters.
The New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy recently adopted a new training model officials say could reduce police shootings, although some critics say those changes may actually increase them.
Documents outlining the new curriculum reviewed by The Associated Press show that cadets are now being trained to shy away from using deadly force in some cases.
The issue took on greater urgency after Boyd's shooting, and a furor has erupted since the police helmet-camera video emerged.New Mexico Attorney General Gary King announced Wednesday that his office has launched an investigation into both of the fatal shootings this month to provide "an objective unbiased external assessment."The U.S. Department of Justice has also been investigating the embattled department for more than a year.
During the 911 call played to reporters in the Redwine case, children can be heard crying in the background.
But Police Chief Gorden Eden released video from an officer's lapel camera indicating shots had been fired from somewhere before police opened fire. "Put the gun down now, Alfred!" police are heard shouting a number of times, before one officer is seen ducking in response to loud pops.
Eden also showed pictures of the suspect's gun with three spent casings, but he could not say how many rounds Redwine fired.
Still, it's too soon to know if the shooting was justified, Eden said.
A group reported to be the international cyber-activist hackers Anonymous posted a YouTube video threatening a cyber-attack against the city over the foothills shooting, calling officers "militarized thugs."
City attorney Rob Perry said officials were taking the threat very seriously and are putting in place various security measures.
"We respect this group," Perry said. "They have an ability to get into highly, federally protected computer systems ... and we're going to do what we can to guard against the problem."
In the foothills shooting, authorities said Boyd, 38, died after officers fired stun guns, bean bags and six live rounds. Police said Boyd had threatened to kill officers and held onto knives as an unarmed K-9 officer approached him.
But a helmet-camera video showed Boyd gathering his belongings then turning away right before officers fired. The shooting followed a long standoff during which Boyd claimed he was a federal government agent.Mayor Richard Berry asked Justice Department officials to add the Boyd shooting to its ongoing probe. In addition, Berry has asked the Las Cruces Police Department to join a five-agency investigation into the shooting.
But Las Cruces police announced Wednesday it would not join the investigation because the department had not been at the scene.
Redwine died Wednesday morning at a hospital, Albuquerque police spokesman Tasia Martinez said.
"He did not have a gun. He only had a cellphone," said his sister, Tammy Redwine, 34. "I know because I was talking to him and telling him to come out and talk to the police."
Her brother was with her two sons, 10 and 13, she said.
Ernie Garcia, 43, Tammy Redwine's boyfriend, said that before police arrived, the 30-year-old had gotten into a dispute with neighbors who were partying next to his mother's vehicle. When police arrived, Redwine didn't come out "because he was scared of police," Garcia said.
"He's had his problem with the law," Garcia said.
Redwine's last encounter with law enforcement was on March 7, when he was arrested for a probation violation involving his guilty plea to charges that included assault with a deadly weapon, Eden said. Officers have been called to various domestic-abuse cases involving Redwine, he added.
The shootings come just weeks after Eden, the former head of the state Department of Public Safety, took over the troubled department, which critics say has fostered a culture of abuse and excessive force.
Right now, Eden said he is doing his best to assess the "department from top to bottom."