ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A defense witness in a case against two New Mexico officers charged with murder in the death of a homeless man testified Thursday that police used the right tactics and followed standard training during the standoff.
Policing expert Ronald McCarthy based his testimony in part on his viewing of video taken by a nearby resident who saw the March 2014 encounter with James Boyd in the Albuquerque foothills.
"What they were doing was reasonable and it was obvious they were trying to resolve this through verbal strategies," McCarthy said at a preliminary hearing. "They were trying to use calming influence."
Officer Dominique Perez and former Detective Keith Sandy face second-degree murder and other counts. A judge previously dismissed involuntary manslaughter counts.
Defense attorneys say they acted in self-defense when Boyd threatened officers with knives.
Special prosecutors rested their case Wednesday at the hearing to decide if the defendants will stand trial.
Police were accused of unnecessarily escalating the three-hour standoff with Boyd, a schizophrenic who was suspected of illegally camping in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains.
Prosecutors also said 19 officers were at the scene of the shooting.
"It's not in my experience that the number of officers is gonna create an issue," McCarthy testified. "It's what the officers are doing."
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.
On Wednesday, forensics expert Barie Goetz testified that Boyd was turning away when Sandy and Perez each fired three shots. Two of the shots by Perez and one by Sandy missed Boyd.
McCarthy, however, said his review found no indication that Boyd was trying to surrender.
In addition, defense lawyers have 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..
The attorneys said the sound of shots being fired was not aligned with the actual firing of the shots.
Goetz, however, 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.