ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A special prosecutor dismissed a second-degree murder charge Monday against one of two former Albuquerque police officers in the shooting of a homeless man during an hourslong standoff that was captured on police video and set off protests in New Mexico's largest city in 2014.
Special Prosecutor Randi McGinn filed the notice to dismiss the charge against former Officer Dominique Perez more than a month after a jury trial for Perez and the other officer charged in the shooting ended with a judge declaring a mistrial because jurors said they could not agree on a verdict.
The notice to dismiss was filed without prejudice, which leaves open the option for prosecutors to file charges later.
But incoming District Attorney Raul Torrez, who takes office in January, or a special prosecutor would have to decide whether to take the case before a grand jury or a judge for a preliminary hearing if they decided to refile charges.
"To do that would take an awful lot," said Luis Robles, who is Perez's attorney.
He said it would be an understatement to say that Perez was relieved by McGinn's decision to drop charges.
Perez was a SWAT officer at the time of the March 2014 shooting that killed homeless camper James Boyd. In video played repeatedly in court during the officers' trial, Perez opens fire a moment after now-retired Detective Keith Sandy fires first at Boyd, who had pulled two pocket knives during a standoff with more than a dozen officers.
The officers' bullets struck Boyd in the back and in each arm.
McGinn, who confirmed the charge had been dismissed but said she could not comment on the case, did not drop the second-degree murder charge against Sandy, who she presented at trial as a detective who was eager to impress other officers and inserted himself into the hillside standoff with Boyd.
Boyd had been camping illegally in the Sandia Mountain foothills when he pulled his knives on the first two officers to approach him on March 16, 2014. Residents had complained about his campsite several hundred feet behind some homes in the foothills.
The two officers called for backup, prompting a standoff that lasted more than three hours and ended with Boyd being shot.
A hearing is scheduled in January to determine whether Torrez can take the case, after a judge last year determined current District Attorney Kari Brandenburg's office could not prosecute the officers because of a possible conflict of interest she had with the Albuquerque Police Department.