Federal Officials Close the Investigation into the Death of James Boyd
ALBUQUERQUE – There is insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against Albuquerque Police Department (APD) officers involved in the fatal shooting of James Boyd, the Justice Department announced today. Officials from the Department’s Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico and FBI met today with Boyd’s family and their representative to inform them of this decision. Boyd, who had a long history of mental illness, was shot and killed following a lengthy standoff with law enforcement officers after he was discovered camping illegally in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains.
Career prosecutors and investigators at the Justice Department conducted a comprehensive independent review of the events surrounding the March 16, 2014, shooting that resulted in Boyd’s death. The investigation reviewed all of the material and evidence in the state case, which was provided by the APD, the New Mexico State Police (NMSP) and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department, including witness statements, recordings from video and audio recording devices worn by officers, dispatch records, photos and recordings by civilian witnesses, crime scene evidence, ballistics evidence, and medical reports. The Department also reviewed the evidence presented in state court during the preliminary hearing and trial by the Special Prosecutor appointed by the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
The federal review sought to determine whether the evidence of the events that led to Boyd’s death were sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any officer’s actions violated the federal criminal civil rights statutes. Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right. Courts define “willfully” to require proof that a defendant knew his acts were unlawful, and committed those acts in open defiance of the law. It is one of the highest standards of intent imposed by law.
After a careful and thorough review into the facts surrounding the shooting, federal investigators determined that there is insufficient evidence prove beyond a reasonable doubt a violation of the federal statute. The evidence, when viewed as whole, indicates that the officers fired only after reasonably perceiving that Boyd posed a serious threat of physical harm to a fellow officer. At the time of the shooting, Boyd was brandishing two knives and was in close proximity to a canine handler. Additionally, the officers were aware of Boyd’s violent criminal history, mental health issues, and his repeated threats to kill officers during the standoff. Consequently, there is insufficient evidence to prove that the officers’ uses of deadly force were objectively unreasonable.
Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed. This decision is limited strictly to the Department’s inability to meet the high legal standard required to prosecute the case under the federal civil rights statute; it does not reflect an assessment of any other aspect of the shooting.
The Justice Department is committed to investigating allegations of excessive force by law enforcement officers and will continue to devote the resources required to ensure that all allegations of serious civil rights violations are fully and completely investigated. The department aggressively prosecutes criminal civil rights violations whenever there is sufficient evidence to do so.