Instructors: Officers in killing appeared to follow training
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two former New Mexico police instructors testified Friday that it appeared a pair of officers charged with murder in the shooting of a homeless man had followed standard training.
Instructors Robert Johnston and David Hubbard, both retired, each took the witness stand at a preliminary hearing and also detailed use of force training at the cadet academy.
The two men were not present at the March 2014 shooting and drew their conclusions based on a scenario presented by defense attorneys in court.
The scenario mimicked the situation that the lawyers said the officers encountered with 38-year-old James Boyd.
Officer Dominique Perez and former Detective Keith Sandy face second-degree murder charges in the death of Boyd.
Police say Boyd was camping illegally in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains and that he threatened officers with knives during a long standoff. Boyd, a schizophrenic, had three gunshot wounds and his arm was amputated after the shooting.
In court Friday, defense attorney Sam Bregman held two fake knives during the demonstration of what should be done with an armed suspect about 8 feet from an officer.
“If you’re a police officer, the subject is 8 or 9 feet away, holding two knives, this is a dangerous individual, would you agree?” Bregman asked.
“Absolutely,” Hubbard said.
He asked Johnston earlier what could happen to an officer in that situation with the suspect standing at a higher elevation than the officer.
“It makes it a lot faster with a suspect with a knife to close the distance,” Johnston said.
The shooting came amid a wave of police shootings in the city and just before the U.S. Justice Department issued a harsh report involving use of excessive force by the Albuquerque Police Department.
Sandy and Perez are the first officers to face criminal charges in the 40 shootings by city police since 2010.
Earlier in the day, prosecutors failed to remove a witness for the defense who they said was not credible.
Judge Neil Candelaria allowed William Lewinski to go on the stand but limited his testimony.
Prosecutors say media reports and investigations have found Lewinski practices pseudoscience in his research on police use of force.
Lewinski defended his research, saying he’s been published in multiple peer-review journals on the psychology of policing and other law enforcement topics.
Lewinski spent the morning testifying about the split-second decisions police officers make in use of force encounters.
Testimony will resume on Aug. 17 in the hearing to decide if the two officers must stand trial.