Police shoot a flash bang and order James Boyd to drop to the ground. Boyd turns away from officers, a knife in each hand. They fire at him. He hits the ground. Officers shout “Drop the knife.” They fire bean-bag rounds at him, and then let loose a K-9 officer. The dog gnaws on his leg, but Boyd doesn’t move. Officers approach to cuff him. There is blood on the rocks on the ground.
Boyd, a homeless man illegally camping at the Sandia foothills on March 16, died in the hospital the next day.
APD revealed the scene of Boyd’s killing in a video released by the police department five days later. Police Chief Gorden Eden justified the killing by saying that Boyd had knives that could have harmed officers during the bloody encounter.
This prompted passionate disapproval from hundreds of city residents. On March 25, about a thousand people rallied from the Alvarado Transportation Center to picket at APD’s headquarters on Fifth and Roma. They carried a black coffin embellished with photos of the 22 men shot dead by APD officers since 2012.
In the protest, relatives of these men shared their experiences with the crowd. Most shed tears.
“Police shot through the window as he was driving down Atrisco,” said Nora Anaya, whose nephew was killed by an officer. “It hurts. It still hurts 23 years later.”
But emotions peaked Sunday, as hacker group Anonymous earlier urged Albuquerque residents in a video press release posted on YouTube to protest the police department’s excessive use of force. Hundreds gathered in front of the department’s headquarters again to voice their complaints, then marched around Downtown.
What started as a peaceful protest ended up a violent standoff among protesters and police. Protesters marched east on Central Avenue and blocked traffic and yelled chants mocking APD. APD, dressed in riot gear, met them at UNM and ordered them to stay on the sidewalk. They disobeyed, which resulted in multiple standoffs against the police.
Police ended up deploying teargas, once in front of UNM, and later near the APD headquarters. Eden justified the use of force saying the protesters were fighting among themselves, and that there was a man with an AK-47 Downtown.
On Monday, protesters convened in a forum amid two smaller follow-up protests. They were able to come up with three demands to APD, including the indictment of officers involved in the shootings, the release of videos of all fatal shootings since 2010 and the removal of charges to arrested protesters from Sunday.
In a vigil Wednesday night, Boyd’s acquaintances reminisced about him and discussed the impact of his death in the site of his killing.
The same day, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry announced in a press conference that he wrote to the Department of Justice to request preliminary results of its APD investigation. He said he will also collaborate with the department to develop a plan to decrease police violence in APD.