On Wednesday, September 23, Mayor Tim Keller was interviewed on the Bob Clark Morning show on KKOB. Not at all surprising, Clark asked the hard questions. During the entire interview Keller gave classic “political pivot” answers and he also expressed confidence in Interim Chief Harold Medina as the person needed until a new Chief is found.
A link to the entire 16 minute Bob Clark interview is here:
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BOB CLARK MORNING SHOW INTERVIEW WITH KELLER
Bob Clark began the interview with discussing the departure of APD Chief Geier and the reasons for that departure. Keller thanked Geier for his service and went so far as to say Geier saved the Department. Notwithstanding, after talking with Geier, Keller made the decision that it was a “transitional moment”. According to Keller, he felt that APD was not making sufficient progress with respect to bringing down high crime rates, the implementation of the Department of Justice (DOJ) reforms had stalled and Chief Geier’s “personal situation” required more time than he had to do the job.
A related blog article on Chief Geier’s departure is here:
Bob Clark also asked about the appointment of Harold Medina as Interim Chief. Keller said Medina was the best person for the job, he was part of the original team Geier assembled that brought stability to APD and he understood APD. Keller noted that Medina when he was with APD worked in field services and after he left APD and retired, Medina went on to be Chief at Laguna Pueblo.
Clark asked about finding a new chief pointing out the DOJ reforms, the city crime problem and the fact that the next Mayors race is next year. Keller’s response was that the finding of a new chief will be “interesting” because of the time line, but he hoped that there would be a lot of applicants who may be Chief elsewhere and who want to leave their community because of what is happening nationally or perhaps that there are those who want to retire and come to Albuquerque. Keller did make it clear that he was comfortable with Medina as long as he needs him.
Bob Clark challenge Keller noting when Keller was first elected that Keller brought back as Chief and Deputy Chiefs personnel who had retired with APD and did not hire people from “outside” who could give “fresh eyes’ to the department. Keller’s response was that “our town is unique when it comes to crime and being under a consent decree”. Keller said “you want a unicorn” who knows crime and knows the community, but that is not realistic.
Keller was questioned in no uncertain terms if the “11th floor”, a common reference to where the Mayor’s office is, is managing the police department. Keller categorically denied the accusation and said it was disrespectful to APD and to law enforcement to question who were making the decisions and he called such accusations “myth” spread out over the internet. During a previous city council meeting, CAO Sarita Nair, when responding to a similar question from a city councilor, denounced the accusation of micro managing as “internet rumor mongering.”
When questioned on what he and APD did during the June 15 Onate statue protest, where one person was shot, and if CAO Sarita Nair or Keller were micro managing the department during the protest, Keller said it was “factually not true”. Keller said that they were in city council session during the Onate protest sounding as if he was at the city council meeting when he was not. The one at the city council meeting was CAO Sarita Nair, not Keller. Bob Clark did not ask if Keller was in contact with APD during the protest and confidential sources have confirmed Keller was on the phone with APD during the protest.
Keller defended the Onate Protest TACT plan saying it was no different than over 40 other past protests tactical plans that were very successful. That is simply not true. The Onate protest TACT plan was tailored to fit the Onate protest in front of the Albuquerque Museum. The TACT plan states that APD was to “stand down” when it came to the statue while APD waited in the Albuquerque Museum until dispatched to quell a violent protest if in fact one erupted. The day after the protest, APD was severely criticized and scrutinized over the decision not to send officers into the fray much sooner and failure to infiltrate the crowd.
During a June 22 press conference, then Deputy Chief Medina said after watching similar events unfold all across the country, APD has been mindful of the way officers respond to such protests knowing it will affect the department’s relationship with the community. Medina responded this way:
“The Albuquerque Police Department recognizes that our past approach to use of force caused the community to distrust and fear the police. … Throughout this time of dealing with protests we have been cautious to hold the use of force to a minimum and use only for significant property damage or when life is threatened. We simply will not allow simple property crime damage to be the tipping point of when we decide to use force on a crowd that has a lot of individuals who are still peacefully demonstrating their constitutional rights.”
The exhibit that the Onate statue was part of was a commissioned art piece that cost $800,000i taxpayer money and the destruction and teardown cannot be “simple property damage” in Medina’s words. Futher, Keller was aware that the Museum Board of Director’s 2 weeks earlier had decided to take the statue down, but Bob Clark did not ask Keller why he did not order a take down before the protest.
A link to a related blog article is here:
Clark confronted Keller over a number of TWEETS where he condemned other police department over the killing of African Americans. Clark noted that Keller never TWEETED over the shooting and murder of two police in California. Keller said you should not judge anyone based on TWIITER posts and that his administration is doing so much more for APD and the city.
Bob Clark confronted Mayor Keller with the police union poll released in July that found that 62% of sworn police officers did not feel they were being supported by then Police Chief Michael Geier, 96% of sworn police did not feel supported by the City Council and 83% of sworn police did not feel supported by Mayor Tim Keller. When asked by Clark what Keller thought about the union opinion poll, Keller played it down as much as he possibly could by saying the Police Union poll always says the same thing about Mayors, which is definitely false.
The poll has been done only for the past 5 years, not the 10 years as Keller said. The recent poll was the very first-time police officers have ever been asked a question if they felt supported by the Mayor, the Chief and the City Council. Keller pointed out to Bob Clark that he has given APD sworn officers significant raises thereby implying they should be satisfied with his performance. When Keller ran for Mayor, the police union endorsed him in no uncertain terms, and within a few months of taking office, the Keller Administration agreed to a two year contract with the police union giving significant raises and increasing longevity pay bonuses.
A link to a related article on the union poll is here:
Mayor Tim Keller has not announced if he intends to submit the appointment of Medina as Interim Chief to the City Council for their approval as he did with APD Chief Geier before he was made permanent after a national search.
THE DOJ INVESTGATION FINDINGS
On April 10, 2014, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Civil Rights Division, submitted a scathing 46-page investigation report on an 18-month civil rights investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). The investigation was conducted jointly by the DOJ’s Washington Office Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico.
The link to the DOJ investigation 46 page report is here:
The DOJ reviewed all fatal shootings by officers between 2009 and 2012, and found that officers were not justified under federal law in using deadly force in the majority of those incidents. The DOJ found APD failed to use deescalating tactics when encountering the mentally ill. The DOJ found APD police officers too often used deadly force in an unconstitutional manner in their use of firearms. Officers used deadly force against people who posed a minimal threat, including individuals who posed a threat only to themselves or who were unarmed. Officers also used deadly force in situations where the conduct of the officers heightened the danger and contributed to the need to use force. The investigation found APD’s policies, training, and supervision were insufficient to ensure that officers encountering people with mental illness or in distress do so in a manner that respected their rights and in a manner that was safe for all involved. A significant number of the use of force cases reviewed by the DOJ involved persons suffering from acute mental illness and who were having a mental health crisis.
One of the use of deadly force cases reviewed by the DOJ was the shooting of 25 year old Kenneth Ellis. The killing of Kenneth Ellis became notorious to the public when a jury returned a verdict finding the City and the officer who shot and killed Ken Ellis was liable for Ellis’ death and awarded more than $10 million in damages. The State District Court granted summary judgement base upon a video of the shooting. Sources report that the video revealed that at no time did Ken Ellis ever lower his gun from his head, he did not threaten police in any manner and that he was a danger only to himself at the time.
THE DOJ REPORT ON THE KENNETH ELLIS SHOOTING
The following is contained in the April 10, 2014 DOJ investigation report on the Kenneth Ellis shooting:
In January 2010, an officer shot and killed Kenneth Ellis, III, a 25-year-old veteran who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Officers suspected Ellis of vehicle theft and pulled him over in a parking lot. Ellis exited the vehicle holding a gun pointed to his head. Ellis continued to hold the gun to his head as he made several phone calls and the officers attempted to negotiate with him. After several minutes, an officer shot Ellis one time in the neck and killed him. While it is true that Ellis was holding a gun and thus presented a clear threat of harm, there was never any indication from Ellis’ words or actions that he intended to use the gun on anyone but himself. During his encounter with police, he held the gun to his own head and did not point at police or threaten them with harm. It was thus unreasonable for the officer to have used deadly force on Ellis. In addition, when officers are dealing with suicidal subjects, their failure to try to de-escalate the situation is a relevant factor in evaluating the reasonableness of any force they might use. Allen, 119 F.3d at 841-44. In February 2013, a judge in a state civil suit granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that the shooting violated the Fourth Amendment. A jury later returned a verdict finding the City and the officer who shot him liable for Ellis’ death and awarding more than $10 million in damages. (page 14)
The officer who shot and killed Kenneth Ellis was not a member of the SWAT unit, but commanding officers within and over SWAT were present when Ellis was shot. The department’s reports on the shooting make it clear that the SWAT commanding officers failed to exert control over the scene, such as by making a plan for handling the crisis, determining where officers should be positioned, or deciding what roles each officer would fulfill, though our consultants would have expected them to take on these roles and establish control and lines of authority. The lack of scene control contributed to a chaotic environment and allowed the shooting officer to act on his own accord when he shot and killed Ellis. See Allen, 119 F.3d at 841-44 (noting that the failure to follow protocols can be a ground for liability for the use of deadly force). (Page 15).”
The DOJ investigation report states that “a judge in a state civil suit granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that the shooting violated the Fourth Amendment. A jury later returned a verdict finding the City and the officer who shot him liable for Ellis’ death and awarding more than $10 million in damages.” What is not disclosed in the DOJ report is the most important evidence that formed the basis of the court ruling and the $10 million jury verdict which is the video of the shooting. According to a person who was involved with the civil law suit and who has actually seen the video, the video of the shooting reflects that at no time did Ken Ellis ever lower the gun from his head and aim it or threaten the police officers which seriously contradicts what Medina said in his statement.
HAROLD MEDINA ADMITS IN INTERVIEW HE AUTHORIZED DEADLY FORCE AGAINST ELLIS
A confidential source provided a copy of a 12-page transcribed interview taken on January 13, 2010 of then APD Lieutenant Harold Medina regarding his involvement in the officer involved shooting (OIS) and killing of Ken Ellis. When you read the DOJ investigation report relating to the Ken Ellis shooting, there are a serious number of discrepancies in Medina’s statement that are very problematic for him and totally contradicts him and what he said to the homicide detective.
The interview at the time was conducted by Homicide Detective Kevin Morant. Then APD Lieutenant Harold Medina was at the scene of the shooting, and became “involved” with the attempted apprehension of the Kenneth Ellis. The APD Case number is AP 10 – 0041334.
Following is the transcribed interview of the Lt. Harold Medina taken on January 13, 2010 by then Homicide Detective Kevin Morant:
DETECTIVE MORANT: This is Detective Kevin Morant with the Albuquerque Homicide Unit. Today’s date [is] January 13th, 2010. The time is 1221 hours We are present at the intersection of Constitution and Westerfield. This is in reference to case number AP 10-0004134. This is an interview with — can you state your name for the record, please?
HAROLD MEDINA: Lieutenant Harold Medina.
…[ Personal information, date of birth redacted.]
DETECTIVE MORANT: … And what substation do you work out of?
HAROLD MEDINA: CIB … Property Crimes
DETECTIVE MORANT: So your out of the main [downtown headquarters]?
HAROLD MEDINA: Yes.
DETECTIVE MORANT: … All right. Just kind of start from the beginning, what you heard, what you observed, what you did, what you saw, … the whole spiel.
HAROLD MEDINA: “Early today, when the incident started, I was around 4ht street and I-40. I was headed to the northeast due to a joint tac plan between the impact teams, Southeast, Northeast and Foothills, where we were pursuing leads on property crime offenders. Also involved were my burglary unit and members of my auto theft unit and members of my burglary unit.
I was on my way up here when I heard the call come out. I was getting on the freeway … when I heard officers say that they needed backup reference a subject who was armed with a gun and holding the gun to his head … .
[At] this time they advised they needed a unit with a rifle. I did have a rifle with me, so I proceeded running code eastbound on I-40. … when I was getting off on Eubank, I heard 701, Lieutenant [officer named redacted] from the tactical section, advise they were monitoring the situation. And at this time I advised that it would probably be best if they went ahead and started units rolling our way, due to the fact that we did have a subject armed with a gun and that there was a situation that would probably best if we had tactical en route to immediately.
As I was going almost on scene, I asked where they needed me with the rifle. I don’t know if they ever answered, but at that information was coming out that they were at the 7-Eleven. As I pulled up, I saw the subject up against the east wall on the south end, holding a handgun to his head. I did notice that several officers were covering him. I did come up with my rifle because most of the officers were in the close proximity to the male subject with their hand guns. … I took up a position of cover behind the cream-colored Ford Taurus that’s parked just in front of my slick top unit.
I was back there with [officer named redacted] and I was trying to – me and [name redacted] were trying to ask Detective [named redacted] to see how we could get him back a little bit from the subject. But he didn’t have any cover to be able to get back … and give some space to the individual because he had just – – it was too dangerous to try and move him back.
So I moved forward to the rear end of the pickup truck. I was covering the subject from the back of the truck. … I was covering the subject from the rear of the truck. … I tried to get better cover, so I went down to the ground. I tried to take a – – get a good position of cover from there, but it still left me too exposed.
So when I was too exposed, I came back up, and as I was coming back up, I saw that the individual had taken the gun away from his head for a brief second. And at that point I would have utilized deadly force, but I was in a position of moving. By the time I came up, the subject was — had already put the gun back to his head.
And the reason I say I would have used deadly force is because, when the gun came down, there was officers all around and at that point, when the gun came away from his head, he easily was covering somebody at that point with all the officers around.
I realized that a lot of the officers were in that close proximity and if that happened again, that deadly force would be justified. … I started to move towards the front of the truck and told [officer name redacted] that if the gun came away from the subject’s head again and that in any – and it veered towards any of the officers, that we needed to use deadly force.
At that time, I heard a single gunshot. The subject fell to the ground. Initially, at first, we thought the subject had taken his own life. Then as we were clearing the subject, I walked up to the subject, covering him, and I got blood on my boots, when I was trying to just scoot the gun away from him. But I was trying to scoot it carefully because I could see that the hammer was cocked and the gun was loaded, so I was trying to make sure that we didn’t have an accidental discharge as we were getting it away from his body.
As soon as we got it away from his body an unknown officer came up and said, “Hey, one of us may have fired a round.” And at that point somebody showed me a .45 shell casing next to a truck in front of the Fina on the rear passenger tire.
I asked an officer to secure and remain with that until the scene was secure and we started dividing, trying to get witnesses secured and securing the scene. And as soon as acting- Commander [named redacted] arrived on the scene, he assumed the role of incident commander due to the fact that I had involvement, and at that point it was turned over to everybody else.
There was a dialogue between the subject and officers were trying to talk with him. But I – from where I was, I couldn’t see exactly what they were talking about.
No [I could not hear what they were saying]. It was, I mean, a lot of people yelling back and forth. Like I said, I was trying to move into position. And I heard officers tell him several time, you know, “Put down the gun. We can talk about this. Put the gun down. We can talk about this.” And the subject was refusing to obey the officers’ commands.
Like I stated, like probably about less than ten seconds before the shot was fired, the gun did come away from his head, which was a potential deadly threat to the officers on the scene.
… [The .45 casing found] … was on the other side of a truck that’s in front of the Fina and it was laying right next to the tire.
He had a handgun. It appeared to be a single action of some sort, or he had cocked it. I could just – I could see that the hammer was cocked back. Black handgun with a wooden gripe.
[I am pretty sure that the .45 casing did not come from his gun because] It’s too far. … There’s no way it could have been ejected and landed where it landed.
… Yeah [as to being asked if any of the officers had fired] … And at one point, they told me that it was possible [named redacted] had fired. And then he was with a buddy officer already. And then he was secured in the vehicle. I secured my firearm, my rifle in the back seat of my car until criminalistics took it.”
No [there is nothing else I can think of.]
DETECTIVE MORANT: … So at least on one occasion you saw the guy take the gun away from his head, kind of scan over where the officers were and then you gave the command that if he did that again, deadly force was authorized?
HAROLD MEDINA: I gave it to [officer name redacted]. I didn’t want to yell the information out. … And if the guy was potentially contemplating – thinking suicide by cop, I didn’t want to give him the out and let him know hey, just pull the gun away and then kind of veer in the direction of the officers, and then we’re forced to shoot him. So that’s why I came to up [officer name redacted] and I told him, “Look, [officer named redacted] if he takes the gun away from his head and it’s going in the direction of an officer, deadly force would be authorized.
DETECTIVE MORANT: … So you just told this to [officer name redacted]? … You didn’t say that over the air?
HAROLD MEDINA: No, I didn’t say that over the air. Because I didn’t want the guy to hear it and then all of a sudden have an out as to well, this is how I could kill myself.
DETECTIVE MORANT: Okay. So he was actually close enough to to the officers where he could hear their radios, their radio broadcasts? … Because you said that he — you said earlier that the officers were in proximity to him.
HAROLD MEDINA: Yeah. They were on the other side of the truck. So probably about 20, 25 feet. I don’t know if people’s radio were on or not. … I wasn’t paying attention to the radio. I was trying to focus on what we had going on there.
DETECTIVE MORANT: … when you went up to the body, to secure the gun and to look at this guy, did you happen to see where he had been shot?
HAROLD MEDINA: No. When he got hit, I saw when he got hit and it appeared he may have gotten hit in the head. … And it seemed like that’s where the blood initially sprung from. That’s what it appeared like.
DETECTIVE MORANT: … Anything else that you can think of?
HAROLD MEDINA: No, nothing else.
DETECTIVE MORANT: … This concludes the interview. The time is 12:31.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
As reported by this blog on September 21, the Keller Administration and in particular the APD Spokesman, is denying on behalf of Harold Medina that he was in charge of the Kenneth Ellis Officer Involve shooting scene as the incident was evolving. The link to the blog article is here:
The January 13, 2010 interview of Harold Medina occurred within hours and at the scene of the shooting on the day of the killing of Ken Ellis. The time of the interview substantially increases the accuracy of Medina’s recollection of what happened that tragic day for Ken Ellis.
Medina inserted himself into the Ken Ellis encounter by APD. At the beginning of the interview, Medina makes it clear he worked at the downtown headquarters, he left the station and was heading to a “tact” plan involving his “burglary unit and members of [his] auto theft unit and members of [his] burglary unit.” and his impact teams he supervised. However, he was not part of the personnel assigned to implement the “tact” plan but it was the units he supervised that were implementing the “tact” plan. When Medina heard the call over the police radio scanner, he was not being dispatched to the call. Medina took it upon himself to go to the scene and to provide a rifle and his assistance.
As a Lieutenant, his role should have been observation and command, not giving orders as he did to subordinates. Lieutenant Harold Medina on his way to the scene called out the SWAT unit when he communicated with the SWAT Lieutenant over the radio and asked that SWAT be sent to the scene. Medina did not wait for SWAT to arrive. Instead, he escalated the incident by participating and acting essentially as a sniper when he took a position on the ground armed with his rifle.
Harold Medina establishes in his interview that he took charge of the scene upon his arrival as the ranking office by giving commands to officers. Once Medina arrived on the scene, he became the highest-ranking officer and under APD standard operating procedure he had the authority to assume control and give orders which he did. Towards the end of the interview, Median says “I asked an officer to secure and remain with that until the scene was secure and we started dividing, trying to get witnesses secured and securing the scene.” This statement alone establishes that Medina assumed the role of being in charge of the scene.
Medina also had the authority to authorize the use of deadly force to the sworn officers’ present, which he admitted he did to at least one officer. According to Medina, tensions were high at the scene and he says he did not want to broadcast information or orders over the radio to those under his command. What is clear is that Lieutenant Harold Medina himself was willing and able to use deadly force by use of his rifle, taking a position on the ground and “covering the subject” in order to fire his rifle when he felt it was necessary. Medina authorized at least one officer to use deadly force. Medina also makes it clear he was prepared to use deadly force himself on Ken Ellis.
ORDERS GIVEN, NOT GIVEN, AND A FAILURE OF LEADERSHIP
The most critical fact is that it was Medina who authorized the use of deadly force by the officers who were under his command resulting in the killing of Ken Ellis. Medina did not order the use of de-escalation tactics. Medina did not order that his officers stand down. Medina did not order the officers to take safe cover. Medina did not order that the officers back up and secure the area. Medina did not order the use of anything less than deadly force. Medina did not order those under his command interacting with Ken Ellis to wait for a crisis unit to arrive at the scene or the SWAT unit he had requested.
After Ken Ellis was shot dead, police officers at the scene approached Lieutenant Medina to tell him that they thought a specifically identified officer had fired the shot that killed Ellis. Further Medina noted the location of the shell. Both facts in part show that Medina believed he was the officer in charge of the scene.
As soon as the Acting Area Commander for the NE Heights Area Command arrived on the scene, and Ken Ellis was already dead, Medina quickly relinquished the scene to the arriving Area Commander which Medina was required to do under standard operating procedures. The Acting Area commander assumed Medina’s role of incident commander. Medina in his own words gave the excuse that he “had involvement” with the shooting and “at that point it was turned over to everybody else.” The actions by Medina at the scene of the shooting before the Acting Area Commander arrived was a failure of leadership.
Medina’s was clearly the highest-ranking officer at the scene once he arrived and he was giving commands, which escalated the situation. His actions of deploying his rifle and “covering the subject” crossed the line making him into a player, or participant, while at the same time he was a supervisor.
Turning over command to another after the killing does not absolve Medina for his conduct and he needs to be held responsible for his actions or failure to act. Turning command over to another after the killing of Ken Ellis does not mean he can avoid being held responsible for the orders he gave, or did not give, that resulted in the shooting death of Ken Ellis.
MEDINA PART OF THE PROBLEM
Interim Chief Harold Medina is part of the very problem that brought the Department of Justice (DOJ) here in the first place. It was the past APD management practices that resulted in the “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice that lead to the federal consent decree after 18 police officer involved shootings and the findings of excessive use of force and deadly force by APD. The litany of cases includes 4 Cases where $21.7 Million was paid for APD’s excessive use of force and deadly force and $64 Million for 42 police officer shootings in 10 years. A link to a related blog is here:
Any one in APD command staff who may have assisted, contributed or who did not stop the “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice and who have resisted the reform process has no business being APD Chief or Deputy for that matter. Interim Chief Harold Medina was and still is part of the problem with APD. It is not at all likely, despite whatever public comments he makes, that Interim APD Chief Medina will ever get behind the Federal mandated reforms which should disqualify him from being the interim APD Chief and for that matter the new permanent Chief. Mayor Tim Keller needs to thank Interim Chief Harold Medina for his years of service and find another to be Interim Chief while a national search is done that is not another sham for public relations.