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View Count: 166 |  Publish Date: April 07, 2014
Amid police shootings, Albuquerque residents grow fearful

ALBUQUERQUE — When Wynema and Michael Gonzagowski moved to town about two years ago, family and friends warned them about what they described as the heavy-handed tactics and aggressive attitude of Albuquerque police.
At first the couple brushed off the warnings, saying things couldnt be as bad as what they had experienced in Los Angeles in the LAPDs Rampart Division, which became infamous for corruption in its anti-gang unit in the 1990s.
But the Gonzagowskis, like others here, began to grow suspicious of their Police Department.
They noticed police regularly stopping and questioning young men and homeless people in their low-income neighborhood.
The Gonzagowskis became upset, they said, when they saw a video that surfaced in March, showing the fatal police shooting of James Abba Boyd, a homeless and mentally ill man who was illegally camping in the Sandia Mountains.
But when they saw officers gun down their neighbor Alfred Lionel Redwine on March 25, the Gonzagowskis said, they lost faith in the police.
Ive never been scared of cops, but out here, the cops terrify me, said Michael Gonzagowski, 39.
Hes not alone.
A rash of officer-involved shootings has unleashed anger, resentment and self-examination as residents, City Hall and the police question whether Albuquerque needs to overhaul the department and train officers better, particularly in how to react to people with mental illness.
Providing better training and mental health services, many here acknowledge, is all the more difficult because New Mexico is a poor state with underfunded behavioral health programs.
Tension between police and parts of the community has been building for years.
They treat you like youre out looking to cause trouble every time they talk to you, Michael Gonzagowski said. For him, the Redwine shooting was the last straw.
In a news conference, Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden Jr. said Redwine was armed and fired a gun before officers shot him during a standoff at a public housing complex.
But Wynema Gonzagowski, a 53-year-old film technician who said she witnessed the entire incident, said she didnt see a gun on Redwine and that he had his arms down, with his palms out, when officers shot him.
They didnt warn him, they didnt tell him to freeze and get on the ground or to put his hand behind his head. They just opened fire, she said.
Since 2010, Albuquerque police have shot 37 people, 23 of them fatally. The shootings have prompted the U.S. Justice Department to open an investigation into police conduct.
For many in this city of 550,000 people, a turning point came with the video of the March 16 shooting. Before he was shot, Boyd had been acting erratically. The video touched off mass protests — including a violent confrontation between police and protesters March 30. Boyds killing prompted another federal investigation.
Mayor Richard J. Berry called Boyds death a game changer and urged the Justice Department to expedite its investigation. He also introduced a raft of proposed sweeping changes to be implemented by Eden, who has been police chief for about a month.
The list includes crisis intervention training for all field service bureau officers. As of now, about a quarter of them receive such training.
Berry said the reforms would include a more rigorous evaluation system for officers, along with comprehensive background checks and evaluations for those hired from other departments.
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Time: 5:20  |  News Code: 396662  |  Site: L. A. Times
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