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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Protesters object to APD shooting contest

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By William Aranda / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Kenneth Ellis, father of Albuquerque Police shooting victim Kenneth Ellis III, holds a photo of his deceased son at the office of Mayor Richard Berry at City Hall on Wednesday afternoon. Several relatives of people shot and killed by APD came to City Hall to call on Mayor Berry to cancel a police shooting competition taking place next month.

Two upcoming shooting competitions are drawing community members’ interest, but not in a positive way.

Protesters rallied at Civic Plaza Wednesday against the Albuquerque Police Pistol Combat Tournament and the NRA Police Shooting Championship. The tournaments, scheduled for Sept. 10-12 and Sept. 13-18, respectively, are co-sponsored by the Albuquerque Police Department and the National Rifle Association.

David Correia, an associate professor of American studies at UNM, has been actively involved in recent protests against APD shootings and said he is a proud advocate for families affected by APD’s alleged use of excessive force.

That the city is hosting the events is troubling, he said.

“I think it’s shocking that the city and APD would do this,” Correia said, “and that’s saying a lot given the things that they’ve done and their tone-deaf approach to resolving this problem — and their refusal to even acknowledge that there is a problem.”

Mike Gomez, the founder the Albuquerque Justice Organization, was one of four people to speak at Civic Plaza during the protest.

Gomez, whose son Alan was shot and killed by APD in 2011, said he is against the shooting competition primarily because Sean Wallace, the officer who shot his son, will be involved in the event.

“We want the mayor to cancel the event because of the people involved in it,” Gomez said. “We want the public to know that APD has a killer cop representing them in this competition.”

The U.S. Department of Justice released a report in April, after investigating APD, which indicated a majority of APD-involved shootings were considered unjustified or excessive. The report cited the shooting of Gomez’s son, saying “… (Alan) Gomez was unarmed and did not pose an immediate risk of death or serious bodily harm to the individuals in the house or officers when he was shot.”

If the event is not canceled, Gomez said, he and his organization will protest at the event next month. Gomez said Wallace received a $500 bonus after shooting Gomez’s son.

After speaking with the media, a crowd of family members went to Mayor Richard Berry’s office to deliver a letter demanding that Berry cancel the event. According to the letter, Sean Wallace has shot three unarmed people since 2004, killing two of them. Mark Shepherd, the security manager at the mayor’s office, stood in front of the office with a police officer and did not allow the family members to enter. Shepherd said there was no one in the office, but that he would personally deliver the letter to the mayor.

Zach Case is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @DailyLobo.