Just days after the Department of Justice concluded a series of community meetings in Albuquerque on the problem of police violence, the Albuquerque Police Department killed its fourth victim in six weeks and 25th since 2010.
A more than six-hour standoff began when APD SWAT responded to a domestic disturbance call to the 10500 block of Coyote Canyon Place northwest just after noon. It ended just after 6 PM when SWAT fired flashbang grenades into a house. When the suspect emerged he was killed in a barrage of gunfire.
APD says Armand Martin threatened his wife with a gun early on Saturday morning. She fled the house with two children and called APD. Martin was identified as an African-American, Air Force veteran Armand Martin. He barricaded himself alone in his house.
APD SWAT units arrived at 1:30 PM. The recent DOJ report criticized APD’s SWAT unit, writing on page 35: “In our review of the Department’s SWAT, we found deficiencies in the leadership of this specialized unit…we found that SWAT members do not have sufficient understanding of incident deployment, scene control, or proper reporting protocols. We further noted a near absence of organizational accountability…SWAT’s deficient on-scene supervisory oversight contributes to the pattern of unreasonable use of force.”
APD ordered KOB to stop talking to Martin. A man identifying himself as Martin’s brother Tommy called KOB later saying “My brother has told me too many bad things about police shooting people down there. I don’t know, right now I’m scared for my brother to go outside.” In addition he told KOB that his brother had guns but he didn’t think his brother knew where to find ammunition.
APD says the suspect exited the house at 6:16 PM and fired shots at APD from two handguns. APD SWAT officers returned fire, killing Martin. The DOJ reported (p. 36) that “In addition to [SWAT] lacking deployment oversight, we also identified a troubling trend where SWAT officers failed to document and videotape deployments.” There were no eyewitnesses to confirm that Martin fired at APD. One eyewitness told the press he thought Martin was pointing the gun at himself.
APD marks bullet casings on the street in front of Armand Martin’s home. Photo by Ben George
In its press statement, APD did not report that Martin exited the house after a SWAT grenade attack. Neighbors reported that APD fired three flashbang grenades into the house just prior to 6:16 PM. One neighbor told a La Jicarita reporter: “They were all camped out there. That’s what we saw for hours on end. It was military-style. Oh, and the flashbangs that were going off. It was scary. We went up into my neighbor’s house and we saw the flashbangs, they blew out all the windows.”
Less than a hour after Martin was killed, APD Chief Gorden Eden arrived to the scene. He refused to speak to the press.
At 10 PM an APD SWAT officer talked to a La Jicarita reporter saying that SWAT responded to a domestic dispute. With neighbors surrounding him he addressed the recent police shootings and DOJ investigation, disputing the notion that APD suffers from systemic problems. He claimed that only 1% of APD officers do anything wrong. A neighbor agreed saying that those cops were messing it up for the other 99%. The officer replied, “let’s be honest, 95%.” Everyone laughed and the SWAT officer walked off.
DOJ investigators concluded community meetings Wednesday in Albuquerque on police violence and says it is now preparing a consent decree that it hopes will resolve APD’s “culture of aggression” (p. 36).
Earlier in the day, just before the shooting, protesters gathered at the downtown Albuquerque hotel where DOJ investigators are staying and passed a scales of justice from the hotel to City Hall.