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September 23, 2014

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Chief has few answers on latest police shooting in Albuquerque

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AP

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, left, and Police Chief Gorden Eden speak to reporters Thursday, April 10, 2014, after the U.S. Justice Department released a report in response to a series of deadly Albuquerque police shootings. The report pointed to patterns of excessive force by the Albuquerque Police Department, serious constitutional violations and a lack of training and oversight of its officers. Nineteen-year-old Mary Hawkes on Monday became the third person to be killed by Albuquerque officers in five weeks, the 28th since 2010 and the first since the Justice Department issued its report.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A news conference called to address the latest shooting by the troubled Albuquerque Police Department raised more questions than answers Wednesday about the killing of a suspected car thief during a foot chase.

Chief Gorden Eden said police were unable to recover video from the body camera worn by the officer who shot 19-year-old Mary Hawkes. Eden also said he didn't yet know if the gun found by Hawkes’ body was loaded, how many times she was shot, whether she had her front or back to the officer when she was killed, if any other officers' cameras captured the event or whether any witnesses have corroborated the officer's statement that the woman pulled a gun on him.

Eden also said he had "no information" about the disciplinary record of the officer who shot Hawkes, Jeremy Dear.

Eden did say this was the first shooting by Dear since he joined the force as a patrol officer in 2007. But the Albuquerque Journal reported Dear was at the scene of a December 2011 shooting cited in recent report from the Department of Justice ordering Albuquerque Police to reduce the use of deadly force and reform a longstanding culture of aggression and abuse.

In that case, court records from a lawsuit filed by the family of Alan Gomez indicate Dear told two different stories about the moments before the shooting, and a recording of his initial statement went missing until a judge in the case issued a sanction.

Hawkes is the third person to be killed by Albuquerque officers in five weeks, the 28th since 2010 and the first since the Justice Department issued its scathing report of the department for its use of excessive force. Among the findings: a majority of the 20 shootings by officers that it investigated were not justified.

A small group of protesters gathered outside the department Wednesday, holding signs demanding justice. Earlier this month, a protest by hundreds over the department's shooting of a homeless camper turned violent and had to be quelled with tear gas.

Eden, who has been with the department just over two months, said a homicide Tuesday took away some of the resources for investigating the Hawkes case.

"This is still an active and ongoing investigation," Eden told a crowded room of reporters and photographers. He promised the probe would be "thorough and accurate" and include officials from state police, the county sheriff, the district attorney's office and the city's independent review officer.

What Eden said he knew at this point was that police first encountered Hawkes about 3 a.m. Monday, when an officer spotted her driving a stolen pickup truck. Hawkes disappeared when the officer was running the plates, but police later found the truck abandoned and linked it to her through items found inside.

That led police to a trailer park, where an officer spotted Hawkes and tried to talk to her, but she fled into the park. After K-9 units were called in, Hawkes was seen running out of the park, and that is when Dear took chase, he said.

According to Dear, he shot Hawkes after she pulled a gun on him at close range, Eden said.

Police were unable to recover any pictures or video from the body camera system Dear was wearing. Eden said the camera has been sent to manufacturer to see if anything can be recovered and to determine if the camera malfunctioned or was turned off. Officers are required to turn their cameras on before all encounters with the public.

Video from other officers' cameras has been recovered, but the chief said he didn't know if any of those cameras captured the event.

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