Albuquerque police have released lapel camera footage that shows an officer shooting at a fleeing suspect.
In October 2013, officers were called about an erratic driver who was running drivers off the road and firing a weapon from his vehicle. Officers said the man, Joaquin Ortega, tried to carjack drivers after crashing his own car.
The newly-released footage seems to contradict the story that police initially reported. Then-Interim Police Chief Allen Banks would not release more than a single frame of the lapel video after the incident, stating that he wasn’t going to allow the case to be tried in the media. He told reporters, “I’m going to do things my way.”
Banks initially claimed that the single image he released showed that Ortega turned toward Officer Brian Pitzer with a gun.
Later, Banks said that Ortega didn’t actually point a gun at Pitzer, but that the officer was justified in shooting at him anyway because the suspect was a “perceived threat.”
Here is the video footage of what occurred after officers caught up with Ortega:
The video footage shows Ortega outside an auto repair shop. Here is an explanation of the scene:
Officer Pitzer yells “Let me see your hands,” and refers to Ortega as “dude” and “bro.”
Ortega runs along the front of the building, walks between two cars and then turns to the right to head toward the sidewalk. Pitzer fires twice.
Ortega appears to toss a gun over his shoulder while two more shots are fired. Ortega continues to bolt down the sidewalk, his back turned to Pitzer, as the officer fires the remaining shots.
Ortega stumbles at the edge of the sidewalk, falls and is handcuffed.
He was wounded at least once in the shoulder. The video shows authorities tending to a moaning Ortega as he says, “Please, please.”
Is is not clear how many times Ortega was shot.
In November, he was indicted on charges of child abuse, armed robbery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault upon a peace officer with a deadly weapon. The court case has been on hold because the officers still haven’t finished their police report – something which Kari Morrissey, Ortega’s attorney, said is unacceptable:
“Quite frankly, why it takes the department this long to complete a report for an incident like this is inexcusable.”
Morrissey said the footage doesn’t show any evidence of Ortega acting aggressively towards the officer, so she does not believe the aggravated assault charge will stick. She also said the video will be “quite helpful” in a lawsuit against the officers for injuring Ortega.
The Albuquerque Police Department has been under investigation by the Department of Justice since November 2012 over several high-profile abuse cases and three dozen shootings since 2010. In spite of that, the man who designs the department’s training programs has been teaching officers to use MORE deadly force.
The city has already paid out millions in police misconduct lawsuits.
Ortega’s shooting was Officer Pitzer’s third in his six and a half years with the department.
Morrissey told The Los Angeles Times that the case is typical of the department:
“Unfortunately, this is par for the course for the Albuquerque Police Department. You have an officer who’s demonstrated an inability to handle the job, but I’m guessing they are worried about showing any weakness by firing him and admitting they mistakenly hired him.”
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