Exclusive video shows dangers APD officers face

Posted at: 01/14/2013 10:40 PM
By: Maria Guererro, KOB Eyewitness News 4

As the Department of Justice investigates alleged abuse by Albuquerque police, APD says its officers’ first instinct isn’t to shoot. Video obtained exclusively by KOB Eyewitness News 4 shows that.

Some may think it’s an effort to improve the image of a department often criticized, but APD stresses it’s meant to better understand just what officers go through and how fast things can take a turn for the worst.

An open space in northwest Albuquerque very well could have become the scene of APD’s 18th officer-involved fatal shooting since 2010. It’s all captured on police lapel camera video on January 2nd.

"We have an unconscious semi-breathing male passed out in the mesa," said one police officer. The video shows Tomas Maes-Blea sitting up and insulting the officers.

"What's your first name,” asked the cop. “F-you. And go to hell," replied Maes-Blea.

“Alright man, well hang tight," responded the officer.

But Maes-Blea starts moving around and then everything changes in a split second.

It’s shaky, but you can clearly see Maes-Blea pulling out a gun. The cops don’t shoot.

The 36-year-old eventually succumbs to their orders to put the gun down.

"They're not eager to use force. They're not eager to get into a deadly encounter situation," said Tasia Martinez, public information officer for APD.

Martinez said the video shows quick decision and restraint by the officers.

"Quite often you hear only about encounters where things go wrong, where somebody is hurt, where force is used by our officers, in situations like these that don't resolve peacefully,” she said. “What you don't see is the daily encounters that are frightening for officers."

But what does an activist, and longtime outspoken critic of Albuquerque police, see in the video?

"When I see a video like that I just... I see my son all the time," said Jewel Hall.

In July, Hall’s son, Milton, was killed by police in Michigan. He was reportedly shot 46 times.

Back in Albuquerque, Jewel Hall is one of those who called on the DOJ to investigate APD for police brutality.

For her, this video is one APD got right, in what she calls a culture of violence within the department.

“The thing that I'm most impressed with is he followed all their orders and then they were civil with him," said Hall.

Police arrested Tomas Maes-Blea. He is charged with assault on a police officer. The gun he pulled out was actually a pellet gun with a broken slide.

APD said this is a learning experience, not just for the officers involved, but for the entire force.

APD will send the video over to the Police Academy to be reviewed and used in training.