Lawyers in the trial of two former Albuquerque police officers charged in the fatal 2014 shooting of a homeless man painted starkly different views of how the encounter unfolded. The prosecutor said the officers could have backed away from a confrontation. Defense lawyers said the officers were simply doing their jobs, the New York Times reports. In her opening statement, special prosecutor Randi McGinn said the officers “could have stopped at any point and established distance” between themselves and the man, James Boyd, a paranoid schizophrenic who had been illegally camping on a craggy mountainside on this city’s east end.
As Boyd turned his back on the officers, as if ready to surrender, the officers set off a flash-bang grenade, followed by six shots. Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez face second-degree murder and manslaughter charges for shooting Boyd. Perez’s lawyer, Luis Robles, called the case “a clash between the duty of the Albuquerque Police Department to provide safety to our community, and the dangers Mr. Boyd posed to that community.” Sandy and Perez are the first officers to stand trial for a fatal shooting in Albuquerque, whose police force has had a rate of shootings higher than the national average for years. The case highlights the challenges faced by police officers nationwide in dealing with people with mental illness.