Protesters gathered outside of the University of New Mexico Bookstore on Sunday, July 10 in response to the killing of Brett Rosenau, a 15-year-old who died in a house fire during an Albuquerque Police Department and APD SWAT standoff. The cause of death was smoke inhalation, with APD Chief Harold Media acknowledging possible fault for the fire, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
“They had a different bar for this child's life. When the family told them repeatedly there was a child in the house, they did not care. You know why? Because he's African. They do not care for our lives. They do not care for our lives. They did not care for that home. They use war weapons in our communities that created a fire that burned a child alive,” Moneka Stevens, a member of the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, said.
The fire erupted after the SWAT team shot tear gas canisters and chemical munitions into the house. Cop watchers present that night blame the tear gas canisters for the fire, according to Source New Mexico.
APD was attempting to track down and arrest 27-year-old Qiaunt Kelly after he violated his parole and was wanted for questioning regarding two shootings and an armed robbery. Officers tracked Kelly down to a home in southeast Albuquerque, which Kelly locked himself inside once they arrived; Rosenau followed Kelly into the home, according to a statement from APD.
Albuquerque Fire Rescue was forced to fight the fire from outside the home due to the standoff. Once Kelly exited the home, firefighters were allowed to enter the home, which is when they discovered Rosenau, according to Source New Mexico.
Melonie King, Rosenau’s cousin, said the other family members, including Rosenau’s mother, wished to come but were unable to because of everything they currently face with the death of their son. King spoke on the continuing violence in the community and urged those in attendance to take action.
“It's not just one person, it’s a slew. They need to stop the violence and the racism that they have against the people. We all need to just make our voices heard and hold our officials accountable,” King said.
Protesters were disgraced by the treatment of Rosenau after his body was removed from the building and left uncovered.
“What happened was they took his body from the home and they left it outside — his burnt body — and the community had to demand and beg to have dignity to cover him up,” Stevens said.
The protest was organized by multiple groups including the Burque Autonomous Brown Berets-New Mexico. Member Jose Martinez said that he wants to see the police abolished and condemned how APD specifically mentioned in the release that they had not shot Rosenau, calling it all “horrific.” Martinez would instead like to see the city invest money in support for the unhoused and those dealing with mental illness or addiction.
“(Keller) needs to open these programs and defund the police and channel that money to help the communities that are hurting the most. And they can’t do that if they are killing our brothers and sisters, and that's why we are out here,” Martinez said.
King spoke on how devastating the loss of a child is and demanded accountability and action from the city for the death of her family member.
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“I have never experienced this myself and I am starting to. I would not wish this upon anybody at all, the loss of a child for my family. But this is the thing: this is a problem. This is a huge fucking problem. Harold Medina should not be the police chief,” King said.
Madeline Pukite is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @maddogpukite