ALBUQUERQUE — The city of Albuquerque has agreed to pay $5 million to the family of a homeless man who was fatally shot last year by Albuquerque officers in a case that drew national attention, led to massive protests in the city and helped fuel major reforms within a police force that had been under federal scrutiny for its use of excessive force, including more than two dozen fatal shootings in four years.

Two officers involved in the shooting face rare charges of second-degree murder.

The case also has been cited in calls across the nation to better train police on how to respond to incidents involving people with mental illness. James Boyd, who was 38 when officers killed him during an hours-long standoff in March 2014 in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains, where he was camping illegally, had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

Friends and family told The New Mexican last year that Boyd had spent years trying to dodge trouble but instead was repeatedly jailed and confined in the state mental hospital. The rugged patch of foothills where he was killed by police was the one place where Boyd found peace, they said.

The settlement that Boyd's relatives reached with the city was announced Friday by an attorney representing the family, who had filed a lawsuit over his death in June 2014. Albuquerque’s chief administrative officer confirmed the lawsuit’s settlement, but there was no immediate comment from city officials on the case.

At the time of Boyd's death, police said officers had fired on him because he had pulled out knives and threatened to kill them. The decision to fire was made only after officers had fired stun guns and bean bags, and had tried to subdue Boyd with a K-9, they said.

But video of the incident from an officer's helmet camera, viewed by tens of thousands of people on YouTube when it was released days after the shooting, appears to show police suddeningly firing on Boyd as he is surrendering.

An autopsy later revealed he had been shot three times, once in the back, and was covered in cuts, scrapes and bites from the police dog. Additional controversy emerged in the case after one officer involved in the shooting was accused of having referred to Boyd as a "lunatic" and saying he planned to shoot the man long before the situation escalated into violence.

That now-retired officer, Keith Sandy, is one of two men charged with second-degree murder in the case. The other is Dominique Perez. A special prosecutor announced the charges last month. Both men have denied any wrongdoing, but each could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

The shooting sparked angry demonstrations around Albuquerque last year, with protesters calling for reform of the Albuquerque Police Department. Between 2010 and 2014, there had been dozens of police shootings, 27 of them fatal. Even Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry called Boyd's death a "game changer."

But even before Boyd’s death, the U.S. Justice Department had been investigating the department over allegations of excessive force. Federal officials harshly criticized the department but reached an agreement with the city to improve training and dismantle troubled units.

Shannon Kennedy, an attorney for Boyd's family, said in a statement that “the family sought justice to ensure that what happened to Mr. Boyd never happens to anyone else, and they believe the city is taking necessary steps to ensure officers are provided adequate training, supervision and support and that Mr. Boyd’s death changes policing for the better in Albuquerque.”

Information from The New Mexican was used in this report.


(14) comments

Carolyn DM

Interesting how so many people seem to know what his family members may have tried to do for him. A lot of homeless people prefer to stay that way.

Randal Doering

What a mess. James Boyd is dead, the cops look like brutes, and the only beneficiaries are the f*cked-up family that couldn't be bothered to bring their guy in from the cold and get him some help. I have schizoaffective disorder myself, and you simply can't bring yourself back from severe mental illness. You need a psychiatrist, and a social worker, and a place to live, and food in your belly, etc. Glad that when I came to New Mexico, I came to Santa Fe and not Albuquerque.

Carl Logan

5 million dollars .... Just how is that amount determined? It is far in excess of settlements made for loss of life at the Twin Towers.

Charges against two officers appears appropriate via available video recording.

No one but no one, should be allowed to dominate any part of public domain for their own self-interest. Anyone/everyone wandering the streets, sleeping on sidewalks, panhandling, impact ingress/egress of a public that supports businesses and entities in our public domain. Everyone needs to comply with a culture of free access.

It has been proven, in the few cities that implement it, that mental health treatment and containment, with an exit strategy, is less expensive and vastly more rewarding than the 'siren/settlement' method practiced here in New Mexico.

Attention to HS graduation rates in the high 90% diminishes street life population.

Khal Spencer

Going back to Pat Shackleford's comment, maybe if municipal elections in Albuquerque had a line item that showed how much of their taxes would have to go to paying out settlements, the general public would take note. We don't see here where that money comes from, but eventually, it comes out of that wallet we all carry around. I'd rather spend five million on recruiting and training excellent cops.

Chris Mechels

What this serves to point out is the UTTER FAILURE to prosecute killer cops. In a typical shooting, the "internal investigation" clears the cops, then the DA won't prosecute the cops, and the police union always supports the cops. The "punishment" of the killers is a minimum of 3 days off with pay. Any surprise that the shootings continue?

The ONLY redress for the families has been a "tort suit" so it is unfair to criticize the families, as Mr. Sure does. They have done us all a favor, by making the "price" of the killing high enough to attract attention.

What is really needed is prosecution of killer cops, and all cops who violate Use of Force repeatedly, like Jeremy Dear. These cops should be indicted, by a normal grand jury, not the "sham" GJ the DA has long used. The should stand trial, so we get to see the whole picture, and the jury can rule on their guilt/innocence. That is the way the system works, for "everyone but cops". Why have we put them above the law, where we can't even put them on trial? This is crazy...

Other simple ways to curb the shootings. Put a price on them. Charge the cops $1,000 for everyone they shoot, $5,000 for everyone they kill. Change the incentives. Too much, what's your number? Your solution?

Donald Sure

Chris, I said the law suit was legitimate. I think that the community should be the payee. Use the money to improve social service programs, mental health, heck even police training.

But why should a family who could have cared less benefit? They get rich because they didn't do what a decent family would have done, cared for their own.

The money should go to make a difference. Right here, right now.

Judy Kaminsky

maybe if "the family" gave a sh*t about James Boyd when he was living on the streets homeless, this would not have happened.

Steve Salazar

The cops murdering Boyd had nothing to do with this?

Pat Shackleford

APD police chiefs (past and present) and mayor Berry, have routinely voiced confidence in police training and the hot-head officers that escalate these situations into tragedies. Maybe if they had to pay part of the settlement out of pocket, they would have a more critical and realistic assessment of APD procedures and hiring practices.

Khal Spencer


Joseph Hempfling

Do the math TAXPAYERS; 40 killings X 5 Million a piece equals a hell of a lot of
money that could be used for better things I would say !

Khal Spencer

I've always sympathized with APD, given the violent low lifes they have to deal with on a daily basis. But this case was beyond the pale. When will the Albuquerque administration and police chief train the police force properly so these types of cases do not occur? If you gotta shoot someone, it ought to pass the laugh test. Plenty of times it does.

Donald Sure

This settlement is well deserved. The officers were clearly out of line in this case. I do believe however, that the family of this homeless man should not be the beneficiary of any of the proceeds of his death.

Where were they all of the years that he struggled alone, out on the streets?

Perhaps the money could have gone to homeless shelters, care for the mentally ill, and other forms of outreach.

Steve Salazar

The money goes to those who filed the lawsuit. Those outreach organizations can always file suit, and see if they win.

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.