But For Video: An Execution in Albuquerque

It’s not that 38-year-old James M. Boyd was the sort of fellow you would want to invite to dinner. He was homeless, perhaps mentally ill, and an illegal sleeper in the foothills outside Albuquerque.  But that’s not a reason for the cops to execute him.  And the word execution is not hyperbole.

There was a long stand-off, variously described as 3 to 4 hours, preceding the video. And the video shows how it was about to end peaceably, the heinous offense of a homeless man camping where the law can’t tolerate it.  Maybe this is how they roll in New Mexico, given that they have a lot of open space and can’t have people illegally sleeping in it when they have nowhere else to sleep. Whatever.

“Don’t change up the agreement, I’m going to try to walk with you,” Boyd says in the video. The suspect then picks up his belongings as if ready to leave. As he starts to head down the hill, an officer can be heard saying “Do it,” before Boyd is hit with a flash-bang device.

And then, boom, a flash-bang grenade.  No explanation. No reason. Maybe there was some cool name the police have for taking a situation that’s about to end without violence and turning it ugly, but if so, its purpose isn’t readily apparent.  Boyd reacted to it, as would pretty much any human being, in a way that didn’t please the cops. So they executed him.

Police Chief Gorden Eden’s reaction to the video was about as thoughtful as the shooting itself:

During a news conference, Chief Eden said the shooting was justified because Boyd was a “direct threat” to the three gun-wielding officers. Eden reportedly left the press conference before news stations could ask why officers didn’t use stun guns instead of firing their weapons.

Not just a “threat,” because he had knives in his hands following the flash-bang grenade, because it’s hard to explain how he’s a threat with knives to officers with guns surrounding him, standing far beyond arm’s reach, away from any potential zone of danger.  No, he was a “direct threat,” because those are the magic words that are pulled out when a killing needs to be explained.

The Albuquerque Police Department, already under federal investigation for use of force, has backed off its “direct threat” claim in light of pervasive public outrage at this execution.  But it won’t bring Boyd back to life.

And if the officer didn’t have a body cam, and the public didn’t have a video that revealed how Boyd was executed in the foothills outside Albuquerque, it would have been just another righteous shoot of a guy you wouldn’t invite to dinner.

21 comments on “But For Video: An Execution in Albuquerque

  1. Thomas R. Griffith

    Sir, it’s obvious that we just witnessed a murder. I believe it’s against the law to do so and fail to report it to the authorities. Knowing that, any ideas as to which one we should contact?

    I think one of the killers used the expression ‘booyhaa’ (spelled many ways) right afterwards. If we learn about this and we do absolutely nothing whatsoever, (but bitch & moan and move on to the next post) we are knowingly & willingly conspiring to condone murder.

    I can think of three killers & their heffe, I wouldn’t want over for anything. Thanks.

  2. M

    You and your readers might be more interested in a longer, and UNCENSORED version:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DngOL6LokN4

    I don’t think it ultimately takes away from your broader point, but there is more to the story. The police flashbang him and release the dog. The victim responds by dropping his bags and begins grabbing at his left leg/waist and his lower back/right leg, and he apparently grabs two knives. The dog doesn’t attack and he turns to run. The police then fire into his back. They approach, ask him to drop the knives, hit him several times with a beanbag shotgun, remove knives from both hands, cuff him, and then search his encampment.

    1. SHG Post author

      It by no means takes away from the point, broader or otherwise. It’s just longer. In deciding to use the shorter version, I did so in the hope that people will be more likely to watch it. Not everyone is fascinated enough to watch a 4 minute video to see a two second execution. The balance isn’t particularly fascinating.

      It’s enough that they executed him, without the collateral indignities. More isn’t necessarily better or different. Sometimes, it’s just more. Despite my rule against links in comments, I’ve left yours in so that anyone who wants to watch the longer version can.

  3. Alex Russell

    I’m fascinated by the fact that they aborted their own peaceful de-escalation. Or was it really only Boyd’s erratically-phrased de-escalation?

    What may be messing with me in watching it is my expectations. I presume that one thing the police do is get to peaceful resolutions, i.e. just get the guy moving along without trouble. But if the police are presuming that any resistance or insolence or standoffishness has to end with the guy face down and handcuffed and immobilized at best or else they will have lost, which can’t happen… I’d really love to know what the police took their job to be here.

    1. SHG Post author

      This isn’t a TV show where someone will show up at the end and explain it all to you. Real life is messy. You have the raw video. What do you see?

      1. Alex Russell

        I’ve watched both, short and long, and I do indeed see what happened.

        I’m not sure what information you thought your response got across. Wondering about the senseless act is stupid and pointless?

          1. Alex Russell

            I didn’t expect an answer, or expect you to have one for me. Did you think I was asking you, when I said I’d love to know?

            Done. That was unnecessarily peculiar.

            1. SHG Post author

              You’re new here, so I’ll help you to better understand. Yes, when you ask a question on my blog, I answer. That’s because it’s my blog, not yours, and it’s run the way I run it, whether it’s the way you think it should be run or not, and here, questions are asked for the purpose of getting answers.

              Since you find that “unnecessarily peculiar,” you should probably go elsewhere. Glad we resolved your question.

  4. MLLAlbqAtty

    They KILLED another guy yesterday!! He was talking on his cell phone. Maybe he took it away from his ear too quickly? Whatever! I live here, I work w/cops daily as criminal defense and I’m afraid of them!! Something is desperately wrong with their culture. The Feds are investigating because they’ve killed so many people. Something like one a month for 13 months.

    1. SHG Post author

      I hear things are out of control there, and wasn’t aware until I was sent this video. I hope this helps to get the message out.

      1. Bill

        Not sure if you meant the state or the city when referring or things being out of control, but if you meant the city, this is the same state that’s home to Deming.. i guess it could be that it’s all just a terrible coincidence or that it’s been this bad for a while and it’s just getting exposed. A more troubling possibility is that something policy wise/administratively is leading to the extreme end of the WarriorCop phenomenon. Too bad all the DOD/DHS grants helping to militarize police departments don’t come with conditional dash cams.

      2. John Barleycorn

        There you go starting riots again esteemed host.

        I wonder if any of your readers were in attendence at the Albuquerque policing policy picnic over the weekend?

        The mayor is calling it mayhem.

        He wasted an oputrunity do be on scene shouting through a blown horn:

        “Stop mayhem-ing and take a walk with me.”

        1. SHG Post author

          “Stop mayhem-ing and take a walk with me.”

          If I’m ever elected mayor, I’m going to steal this.

  5. Charlesmorrison

    Full disclosure: I only watched the short version of the video. But, I can’t fathom a reason to shoot at the precise time the shots were fired. From what I can tell, from a defense attorney’s perspective and not a SWAT expert, no one was in immediate danger of being seriously harmed.

    More importantly, though, while police are allowed to lie to suspects, targets, etc. (a discussion for another day) this really seems like a terribly tragic breach of their “agreement,” directly resulting in death. This guy is ostensibly gathering his things, talking about nobody being hurt as the resolution, and yet the officers decide to change it up with the flash bomb. This, unsurprisingly, results in the man’s less than fully compliant posture. Is it too much to ask that they allow him to get within arms-reach before they inevitably overpower him? Perhaps they could have used pepper spray once close enough?

    1. Legal Baby

      I appreciate that being from the UK I seem to be sheltered compared to some parts of the US in this regard, I even see pepper spray as being to far. At no time (prior to being flashbombed) did the guy show aggression (there would have been resistance presumably if there was a 3 hour stand off though). At best they should of asked the guy to turn, kneel, hands on head, and cuffed him.

      I do not know what defences to homicide NM has on the books but if this gets to trial I suppose their defence is going to have to rely upon the prior resistance and the argument that they “needed” to flashbomb the guy because they did not know how he would react.

      As an aside, the whole situation is overkill (at least from my sheltered UK perspective). They were trying to remove someone under some sort of vagrancy law and required at least 3 officers, one of whom was in full body armour, a police dog and assault rifles. I mean, really?

  6. Patrick Maupin

    How is it that this video saw the light of day?

    Even the worst cops usually aren’t stupid. Or maybe they are. That would almost be comforting — perhaps we could get rid of them, if the ADA allows it. I’m worried that we’ll never see another video like this again, not because it stops happening, but because they will learn the wrong lesson.

    1. Brett Middleton

      I think it goes back to MLLAlbqAtty’s observation that something is very wrong with the police culture there. The Albuquerque cops may not have seen any reason to make the video disappear because they truly think they performed well and are honestly puzzled at the public reaction to it. Elsewhere, as shown by a few recent incidents, the cops at least have enough awareness to turn off the body- and dash-cams or make the video disappear. Either way, it seems as if NONE of them are learning the right lesson.

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