A special prosecutor in New Mexico is seeking second-degree murder charges against two Albuquerque cops accused of shooting and killing a homeless man in March.
Officers Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy are also accused by special prosecutor Randi McGinn of voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault, according to the papers filed in state court on Monday. Sandy and Perez shot 38-year-old James Boyd after a four-hour standoff in the Sandia foothills.
The shooting was caught on video.
After the incident, Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden said the shooting was justified because Boyd was a "direct threat." According to the Albuquerque Journal, Boyd suffered from schizophrenia. The suspect also had a criminal history, was wielding a knife during the standoff, and broke a female officer's nose in 2010, KOAT reported.
A judge will now decide whether there's enough evidence to charge the cops, and a preliminary hearing is set for August.
Early this year, a Bernalillo County sought first-degree murder charges against the pair, but a judge disqualified that attorney, according to KOAT. McGinn took the case and announced the lesser second-degree murder charges on Monday.
Keith Sandy (L), Dominique Perez (R)
McGinn's accusations mean the officers did not plan the shooting death of Boyd, so the punishment is less severe.
“The penalty is dramatically reduced in the murder in the second degree charge,” said Barry Porter, a seasoned defense and civil rights attorney not involved with the case. “Murder in the second degree carries a 15 year penalty. And the judge actually has the discretion to suspend that sentence, so that the person doesn't have to do prison."
Sandy's attorney, Sam Bregman, said he disagrees with McGinn's decision to bring the charges.
"There is no justification for charging Keith Sandy with any crime," Bregman said. "Keith was a police officer protecting a fellow officer when he shot a mentally unstable man wielding two knives. There is simply no criminal intent."
Boyd's killing prompted protests against the Albuquerque police department, which the federal government in April 2014 found had used excessive and even deadly force against civilians. It is facing reforms and is under federal monitoring.
Reuters contributed to this report.