2nd Albuquerque police shooting sparks probe calls

March 22, 2012 - 10:45 PM
Albuquerque Police Shootings

File-In this May 21,2009 file photo Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz, speaks during a news conference in Albuquerque, N.M. The city had its 2rd officer-involved shooting in three days yesterday Wed. March 21,2012 and the department is facing heat from community activists and calls for a federal probe since the department had a number of shootings over the two years prior. (AP Photo/Craig Fritz)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Activists are renewing their request for a federal probe after Albuquerque police shot and killed a second person within three days.

Officer Russell Carter fatally shot Gary Atencio on Wednesday after a chase that began when Atencio pulled his car over and began shooting at his wife, state police said. It was the third fatal shooting by Albuquerque police this year and the 18th since 2010.

Jewel Hall, president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center Board, said this week's shootings showed that federal authorities need to investigate the department despite changes to training and hiring practices.

Those changes were instituted last year in response to public outcry over the number of shootings, most of which involved young Hispanic men.

"It's lipstick on a hog," Hall said. "The killings show that nothing has changed and more needs to be done."

She said activists planned to speak to city councilors and plan more protests to renew calls for a federal investigation. The Department of Justice has not made a decision on any possible probe, but state police were looking into the most recent shooting.

Mayor Richard Berry said he is open to showing federal officials the city's records to demonstrate how officials have reacted to the shootings. But he vetoed a city council resolution last year that requested a DOJ probe.

Authorities said Carter shot and killed Atencio on Wednesday near Laguna Pueblo, an Indian pueblo west of Albuquerque, after the police chase. Police Chief Ray Schultz said Atencio and his wife, Michelle, had stopped their car during an argument about their pending divorce.

Schultz said Atencio got out and began shooting at his wife, who eventually escaped with just a broken wrist. Atencio fled after a security guard spotted the shooting and witnesses called 911.

State police said the half-mile chase ended on Interstate 40 after Atencio crashed into a tractor-trailer, fled his vehicle, and led police on a foot pursuit.

Schultz said Atencio had previously been arrested for domestic violence and that officers found $90,000 and marijuana in the car.

Schultz said the officer who shot Atencio is a veteran of the police force who has been involved in "a couple" of officer-involved shootings.

Carter was involved in a 2005 shooting during which a man being evicted from his home was killed during a standoff. In 2007, Carter and another SWAT officer shot and killed a man with a lengthy criminal history when he charged at the officers with a knife.

Schultz called Carter a "hero" for his roles in those officer-involved shootings.

On Monday, another Albuquerque officer, Martin Smith, fatally shot Daniel Walter Tillison after he rammed his car into the officer's vehicle.

Schultz said the officer first shot out the vehicle's tires and only shot at the man after he kept driving toward him.

He said Tillison was a known gang member with a lengthy criminal record and had a current warrant out for his arrest.

Smith has been placed on leave while an independent panel reviews the shooting. Schultz said both shootings have been turned over to the District Attorney's office.

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Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras