- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 1, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A family filed a wrongful death claim in a 2014 police shooting against New Mexico’s largest city Tuesday, arguing evidence doesn’t back up accounts that a teenager pointed a gun at an officer during a foot chase before she was shot.

Citing an autopsy and ballistics, the lawyer for 19-year-old Mary Hawkes’ family said officer Jeremy Dear likely first fired shots from an Albuquerque street as the teen sprinted down a sidewalk - not as she stood feet away facing him. His attorney could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening to respond to allegations after the lawsuit was filed.

The April 2014 shooting came amid heightened scrutiny of shootings by Albuquerque police - happening just weeks after officers’ fatal shooting of a homeless man sparked protest, and days after a federal investigation described a culture of excessive force within the department.

“Had the City undertaken any scrutiny of Dear’s claims, the trajectory of his bullets would have made plain the impossibility of his account,” the family’s lawsuit filed by attorney Shannon Kennedy said.

A police spokeswoman referred comment to city attorney Jessica Hernandez, who could not be reached after business hours. A city spokeswoman said Hernandez had not yet received the lawsuit.

Hawkes was being pursued in connection with a stolen vehicle the morning she was shot, police said, and officers’ statements have maintained that she pointed a gun at Dear.

Hawkes’ family disputes whether she even held the weapon, which police later showed a replica of at a police news conference. Hawkes’ DNA and clothing fibers weren’t on the gun at the scene, said the complaint, which was submitted with a report from a ballistics expert hired by the family.

Revelations that Dear’s lapel camera was unplugged and failed to record his contact with Hawkes led to public outcry, and his firing. The department accused him of insubordination for repeatedly failing to use his camera. Dear continues to challenge the decision.

The Hawkes’ lawsuit builds a timeline of the shooting based on other officers’ lapel video, including that of Tanner Tixier, now a police spokesman. His account of the shooting also is disputed in the lengthy court filing that states there’s also more evidence to suggest another officer witnessed the shooting despite saying otherwise.

Hawkes was likely turned away from Dear, at least to some degree, when he fired at her from about 8 feet away, according to the complaint. Dear fired five times and Hawkes was hit three times - with bullets hitting her in the head, arm and neck.

A toxicology report released by authorities showed Hawkes had methamphetamine in her system.

Two bullets that didn’t hit Hawkes but instead hit the concrete wall within the final 10 feet that Hawkes cleared in the chase, making it likely that she was running when Dear first opened fire, the lawsuit said.

Officer Tixier arrived at the scene as Hawkes wielded a gun, believing it was pointed in his or Dear’s direction, he told investigators.

In his account, he started getting out of his cruiser when Dear began firing. But video allegedly shows Dear finished firing four seconds before Tixier got out of his vehicle, and ballistics don’t support the detail from Tixier either, the complaint said.

“All I know is I saw a gun and it was coming up in my and Officer Dear’s general direction,” Tixier told investigators.

Dear told them he feared for his life.

Tixier kicked the gun away, saying Hawkes was down but still moving and the gun appeared within her reach.

In the lawsuit, the city also is accused of negligence for keeping Dear on the force despite prior issues, while police are the subject of an unlawful search and seizure complaint for taking Hawke’s cell phone without a warrant.

The family seeks compensation for an undisclosed amount of damages. Last year, their attorney reached a $5 million settlement with the city in the death of James Boyd, the homeless man shot by police the month before Hawkes was killed.

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