Eyrie Brian Faulkner stood at the foot of Copper Trail Head on Wednesday evening and watched as more than 100 people ascended to the scene where James Boyd had been shot. Faulkner had known Boyd, but wounds in his hip and knee prevented him from climbing the hill.
“I wish I could go up there,” Faulkner said. “I’ll say my goodbyes at another date by myself.”
Boyd stayed at Faulkner’s apartment three days before his death, Faulkner said. He said he had known Boyd from a time when they were both homeless.
“This was the first time that he had actually asked for help,” he said. “When I say ask for help, he didn’t want to be on the streets anymore. He was tired of beating himself up.”
On March 16, Albuquerque Police Department officers shot and killed Boyd, a homeless man who was caught illegally camping in the Sandia Foothills. In a video that was taken from an officer’s helmet camera, Boyd can be seen turning away from APD officers as they open fire.
“I do not believe this was a righteous shooting,” Faulkner said. “In every part of my being, this was excessive force.”
People gathered for a candlelit vigil that night to pay their respects and reminisce about Boyd at the place where he was shot. Several people who had known Boyd personally talked about him and the change his death could bring to the community.
“I consider the times that I had with him to be very precious,” said David Sisneros, an acquaintance of Boyd’s who spoke at the vigil. “He was a good man. He was struggling with some issues, yes. But he had a good heart.”
Other people at the vigil also discussed the problems regarding mental health.
According to The New York Times, Boyd had a history of mental health issues.
“When (Boyd) was well and treated, he was a different person than the one who died up here,” said Dr. Albert Dugan, a representative for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Albuquerque who spoke at the vigil. “Both he and the police were victims of a terrible treatment system, an inadequate treatment system.”
Dugan said NAMI and other organizations are making progress with regard to mental health. But he said members of the community need to support each other when faced with challenges such as these.
“We are what helps us through these hard times,” he said. “Life is hard. But we as a community are strong, and when we get down, somebody else helps us out.”
Sisneros said Boyd’s death could act at a catalyst for change for everyone in the community, including the police.
“(APD is) capable of making mistakes,” he said. “And that shouldn’t be what today is about. Today is about remembering a man who lost his life. And we need to remember that that shouldn’t have happened, and we’re trying to create a change so that that doesn’t happen again in the future.”