ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico judge on Wednesday dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges but retained murder counts against two Albuquerque police officers who shot and killed a homeless man last year.
Judge Neil Candelaria said the manslaughter counts were not applicable.
However, he denied a motion by defense attorneys at the preliminary hearing to dismiss murder, aggravated assault and aggravated battery charges.
The developments came after the state rested its case against police Officer Dominique Perez and former Detective Keith Sandy at the hearing to determine if the case will go to trial.
Perez and Sandy shot James Boyd in March 2014. Police have said Boyd, a schizophrenic, was camping illegally in the foothills and threatened officers with two knives before he was shot.
The defense began its case with testimony from Alexander Thickstun, a resident near the scene of the shooting who had called police about Boyd on several occasions, including the day he was killed.
Thickstun testified that Boyd threatened officers with two knives and advanced toward them several times on the day he was killed.
"He said he was gonna kill them if they approached him," Thickstun said.
The shooting came amid a wave of police shootings in the city and just before the U.S. Justice Department issued a harsh report involving use of excessive force by the Albuquerque Police Department.
Sandy and Perez are the first officers to face criminal charges in the 40 shootings by city police since 2010.
Earlier Wednesday, a forensics expert testified that Boyd was turning away when Sandy and Perez each fired three shots. Two of the shots by Perez missed Boyd, Barie Goetz said. One by Sandy also missed.
Defense lawyers tried to discredit Goetz by suggesting he didn't spend enough time examining evidence and didn't read the full police report on the shooting.
They also disputed a slow-motion video taken with a camera in Perez's helmet that showed Boyd turning left just before the first shot was fired, saying the sound of shots being fired was not aligned with the actual firing of the shots.
Goetz defended his analysis of the incident and said statements made by Perez about the shooting were not accurate based on the investigation.
"His statement as to gunshots and the position of Mr. Boyd in time of gunshots is not consistent with what the video shows," Goetz said.
Prosecutors have said police unnecessarily escalated the encounter.
Defense attorneys counter that their clients did nothing wrong and that Boyd threatened to kill them.
Special prosecutor Kevin Holmes questioned police Detective Nathan Render, a crime scene investigator who worked on the Boyd shooting, about missing lapel camera video from an officer at the scene. The video was turned over 10 days after the shooting.
"I believe it may have been missed that he had one with him," Render said.