Albuquerque police say shot suspect wore stolen body armor

AP News
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Posted: Jan 14, 2015 7:38 PM
Albuquerque police say shot suspect wore stolen body armor

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A man shot and killed by Albuquerque police was wearing sheriff-issued body armor and fired a stolen gun at officers, police said Wednesday.

John Edward Okeefe, 34, died after a shootout with two officers on Tuesday in what was the Albuquerque Police Department's first fatal shooting of 2015.

The latest incident follows a string of shootings that have prompted public protests, federal scrutiny and even charges from a local prosecutor.

According to police, Okeefe fled from officers who responded to a call about two suspicious men in an eastside neighborhood. Police said Okeefe then shot at an officer chasing him. That officer took cover and did not return fire as Okeefe ran across a busy street, police said.

Okeefe fired at officers again, police said, and two officers then returned fire, killing him.

Police said the gun and bulletproof vest found on Okeefe were stolen from a Bernalillo County Sheriff's deputy. It was unclear why the suspect was wearing body armor.

Authorities said Okeefe had been previously arrested for narcotics charges and armed robbery in Missouri.

The names of the officers in the shooting were not released. The other suspect was taken into custody and briefly questioned before being released. Charges are pending.

Tuesday's shooting comes a day after a district attorney announced that she is seeking murder charges against two Albuquerque officers in the death of a homeless man in March.

It's a tumultuous start to 2015 for Albuquerque after months without a police shooting and for a department that will enter federal monitoring.

The announcement Monday by Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg marked the first time her office has sought charges against any of the more than 40 officers involved in shootings since 2010 and a rare move by a district attorney anywhere in the country.

Meanwhile, two officers are recovering from gunshot wounds in a separate case this month.

And on Sunday, a marked New Mexico State Police vehicle was vandalized with spray paint with expletives at an Albuquerque apartment complex.

"We really need to have a major shift in views on how the public views the police and the police views the public," Barbara Bergman, a law professor at the University of New Mexico. "It shouldn't be a war."

The city of Albuquerque and the U.S. Justice Department are working to decide on a monitoring team that would oversee the police force. Officials had hoped that the agreement would ease tensions between police and critics, which boiled over last year with protests, the takeover of a city council meeting and the hacking of city websites.

That agreement called for new training and protocols for investigating officer shootings. It also called for the agency to dismantle some troubled units and a series of community forums.

But advocates say they plan on resuming demonstrations around the city and believe recent events show distrust remains. More than a dozen protesters rallied outside Albuquerque police headquarters Wednesday afternoon, carrying photos of those killed by police and calling for the firing of Police Chief Gorden Eden.

"We were actually at a happy place not too long ago and thought things were changing," demonstrator Nora Tachias-Anaya said. "Now we're back to square one and I don't know why."

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Follow Russell Contreras at http://twitter.com/russcontreras.