New Mexico officers to stand murder trial in shooting of homeless man

Dominique Perez john boyd Keith Sandy

A March 2014 standoff that left an armed homeless man dead after the actions of the Albuquerque Police Department has evolved into a trial on second-degree murder charges. (Photo: Screenshot)

Albuquerque Police Officer Dominique Perez and now-retired Detective Keith Sandy have been ordered to stand trial for the 2014 death of James Boyd.

Boyd, 38, was killed after a three-hour standoff last March when officers confronted him over illegally camping in the Sandia foothills around town. Armed with knives, Boyd’s shooting was captured by the helmetcam of one of the 19 officers present.

The footage shows Boyd gathering his belongings then dropping them and producing his edged weapons after authorities deployed a flash-bang grenade. After turning away from the officers, Perez and Sandy shot Boyd and released a K-9 unit on the man, who had a history of mental issues.

The public outcry from the footage and subsequent investigation led to District Attorney Kari Brandenburg this January filing murder charges against the two officers for their role in Boyd’s death, the first Albuquerque officers to be charged with murder following an on-duty shooting in at least 50 years.

On Tuesday Pro Tem Judge Neil Candelaria, concluding a two-week preliminary hearing, found both men should face a trial on charges of second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, aggravated battery and aggravated assault in Boyd’s death as reported by the Associated Press.

Special Prosecutor Randi McGinn during the hearing argued that Perez and Sandy came to the scene as part of a “paramilitary response” and escalated the incident.

“He was shot in the back and in the side,” McGinn said during her argument. “That shows that he was not a threat when they shot him.”

Now, bound over to District Court on serious felony charges that could earn each man up to 18 years in prison, the vice president of the local police union is confident that a jury will find the two lawmen innocent.

“This has been a horrible process for them and their families,” said union Vice President Shaun Willoughby. “They are fathers, police officers, dedicating their lives to the community, and we’re shocked.”