Former Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg in a letter to the Albuquerque Journal and in a front-page Journal story declared in no uncertain terms that she wanted to bring multiple felony charges against former APD Lieutenant James Brachle for the January, 2015 shooting of former undercover APD Detective Jacob Grant during a botched drug sting.
(January 7, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1, “FORMER DA: Felony charges warranted in 2016 officer shooting; AG dropped case because statute of limitations ran out on misdemeanor charges”)
The felony charges Brandenburg and her officer felt were in order at the time included “shooting at or from a motor vehicle”, a second-degree felony and “aggravated battery with a firearm”, a third-degree felony, with no misdemeanor charges.
THE TRAGIC SHOOTING OF APD DETECTIVE JACOB GRANT
In January 2015, former undercover narcotics APD Detective Jacob Grant was shot seven times point blank in a parked car by his APD Lieutenant James Brachle.
Undercover Narcotics Detective Grant was negotiating a drug buy from two drug dealers.
Grant had broken his cover when Brachle rushed the parked car, opened the car door where Grant was sitting and opened fire shooting Grant point blank seven (7) times according to police offense reports.
According to police lapel camera video, upon realizing who he shot, Brachle blurted out “I’m sorry man, I didn’t know it was you!”
It was reported that Brachle did not attend the “pre-sting” briefing where it was discussed where Grant would be in the vehicle but Brachle showed up to the sting operation any way.
Grant was extremely lucky to survive the shooting and underwent extensive surgery for his wounds, was hospitalized for months and eventually had to retire from APD because of his permanent physical disabilities related to his injuries from the shooting.
Ultimately, it was the citizens of Albuquerque that were held financially responsible for the tragic shooting that was at the very least negligent.
APD Officer Jacob Grant was paid $6.5 million dollars plus all his medical expenses being paid to settle the civil claim.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S DECLINATION OF PROSECUTION
Months after Grant’s shooting, Brandenburg asked Attorney General Hector Balderas to take over the review and potential prosecution of the case after the unexpected death of the Deputy District Attorney who was handling the case.
It has been reported that Brandenburg made it known to Balderas that she felt felony charges should be brought.
The Attorney General agreed to take the case over for potential prosecution.
Attorney General Hector Balderas waited over a full year after Brandenburg left office to announce that there would be no prosecution in the case and that Brachle would not face any criminal charges.
The explanation for no prosecution was that the statute of limitations on misdemeanors had passed including the misdemeanor charge for “negligent use of a firearm”.
According to the Attorney General’s spokesman James Hallinan, the A.G.’s office determined that because Brachle was acting in his capacity as a law enforcement officer at the time of the shooting no felony charges could be filed against him under New Mexico law.
The finding by the Attorney General’s office that no felony charges can be brought against Brachle for the shooting of Grant is total and complete nonsense and a fabrication.
Whenever a police officer uses deadly force, it must be justified under statutory law as well as APD standard operating procedure, with no room for exceptions.
There is no such thing as a “friendly fire” killing or shooting in law enforcement as there is in military combat.
The fact that the shooting victim was a cop does not negate the fact that the shooting was done by another cop and it was still a police officer involved shooting and it must be investigated and determined if it was justified.
To put the shooting of Grant by Brachle into focus, former APD Police officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez were acting in their capacity as law enforcement officers when they shot and killed homeless camper James Boyd, and they were charged with murder.
Just because a police officer is acting in his capacity as a law enforcement officer when he discharges his firearm and injures or kills someone does not completely negate criminal or civil liability of the shooter.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree mandates that APD excessive use of force or deadly force cases must be investigated, yet nothing has been reported by news agencies if the Grant shooting was reviewed for violation of APD use of force policies.
Brandenburg wrote her letter to the Albuquerque Journal questioning the Attorney General’s decision not to proceed with felony charges against Brachle and the letter resulted in a front-page story.
(January 7, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-9, letter to the editor by Kari Brandenburg, “Detective Shooting case was handled properly: DA’s office did not drag its feet seeking prosecution.)
GAGGING ON THE DEFLECTION TACTICS
“No one should politicize this tragedy,” said James Hallinan, a spokesman for Attorney General Hector Balderas, referring to the shooting of Grant and responding Brandenburg’s allegations and letter.
The email to the Albuquerque Journal is a classic and pathetic response by a political operative to deflect the truth, avoid answering questions and taking any responsibility or making any decision that may be politically explosive.
It is Attorney General Hector Balderas with the help of his political operative who has now politicized the Grant shooting.
The public relations response by the Attorney General Hector Balderas is an example of why the public gags and gets disgusted with politics and political operatives who “pivot” on an issue to deflect blame.
The truth is, the statute of limitations may have run on the misdemeanor charges but the statute of limitations has not run on felony charges.
The Attorney General letter declining prosecution conveniently says absolutely nothing about potential felony charges.
Attorney General Hector Balderas in his letter declining prosecution goes out of his way to point out that outgoing APD Chief Gordon Eden never referred Greg Brachle to New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board to investigate the shooting as required by state law.
The New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board has the authority to suspend or revoke police certifications.
Attorney General Hector Balderas is the Chairman of the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board and he has the authority to order the board’s investigators to review the case to determine if Brachle’s law enforcement certification and license should be revoked.
Balderas failing to make the referral himself to his own board is evidence of more political deflection to avoid taking any police oversight responsibility.
No satisfactory explanation has been made by the Attorney General why felony charges cannot be brought against former APD Lt. Greg Brachle.
Attorney General Hector Balderas letter declining criminal prosecution was delivered to new APD Interim Chief Greier the very day the Chief was sworn in.
Immediately upon being sworn in, APD Interim Chief James Grier referred the Grant shooting case to the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board for investigation.
If Balderas does not want to prosecute a police officer for felonies in any case, or because he has a conflict, or he knows the difficulty in convicting any cop before a jury, or feels it will harm his working relationship with law enforcement, he should just say so.
Instead of being upfront and after agreeing to take the case in the first place, Balderas sends out his mouth piece to accuse another for “politicizing” a tragedy.
Attorney General Hector Balderas should refer the case back to the Bernalillo County District Attorney for a final decision.
Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez needs to decide once and for all if felony charges should proceed against Greg Brachle.
The problem is that Torrez may play the same little game of blaming his predecessor or say his office is too short handed to handle the case or does not have the resources.
DA Torrez has over 30 police officer involved shootings that are still pending review by special prosecutors on contract.
One more police officer involved shooting case should not pose that big of a problem, unless you do not want to make the hard decisions and do not want to alienate law enforcement.
Then again, Torrez can get Hallilan on loan so he can issue a press release that says he does not want to politicize another police officer involved shooting and therefore will not take the case back and prosecute.