- Associated Press - Monday, March 24, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - In a rare show of displeasure with the troubled Police Department, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said Monday it was wrong for the new police chief to say officers were justified in killing a homeless camper in the Sandia foothills.

Berry also said he wants to bring in outsiders to help investigate the killing that came as the department is under federal scrutiny after notching three dozen shootings since 2010.

Berry criticized Police Chief Gorden Eden for making a premature judgment about the fatal shooting of 38-year-old James Boyd on March 16.

“The chief got asked an honest question and he gave an honest answer,” Berry said. “Unfortunately, it was premature and a mistake, and that will not happen again.”

Authorities said Boyd died after officers fired stun guns, bean bags and six live rounds. Eden said Boyd had threatened to kill officers and held onto knives as an unarmed K-9 officer approached him.

A helmet camera video showed Boyd gathering his belongings then turning away right before officers fired.

The video, released Friday and shown nationwide, drew scrutiny from elected officials and civil rights groups who believe officers overstepped their use of deadly force on a man who appeared to be struggling with mental illness.

“It was horrific when you see someone who has been shot,” Berry said of the video.

The video showed an injured Boyd with two 5-inch knives in his hand when officers surrounded and handcuffed him.

Eden said the medical examiner has not yet determined if the bullets killed Boyd.

Berry said he has invited the Las Cruces Police Department to help with an independent five-agency investigation into the shooting. “They are from outside the metro area and it’ll be good to get a sixth look at it,” Berry said.

The shooting came as the Albuquerque Police Department is the subject of a U.S. Justice Department investigation involving the use of force.

Former Police Chief Ray Schultz retired last year amid controversy over the shootings, although Berry had been publicly supportive of Schultz. Berry named Eden as police chief last month following a national search.

Berry said he has informed the Justice Department about the latest shooting and the agency has access to any files it needs.

Some members of an Albuquerque police oversight panel were expected to hold a news conference Tuesday to formally ask for an investigation into the shooting independent of Albuquerque police and the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

“The shooting of James Boyd has shocked and appalled the citizens of Albuquerque,” said Leonard Waites, a member of the Police Oversight Task Force. “We call for an immediate and independent investigation of this tragic killing.”


Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras

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