The 5 Most Egregious Police Brutality Incidents That Sparked a 10-Hour Protest

Written by Nicole Flatow

protest in Albuquerque, N.M., lasted more than ten hours on Sunday, escalating into what Mayor Richard Berry called “mayhem.” The protests were triggered by over 37 police shootings since 2010, 23 of them fatal.

As protesters shut down the streets and began to flood interstates, police from the very department they were protesting dispersed the demonstrations with tear gas and hauled demonstrators away in zip-tie restraints. The Sunday showdown demonstrates escalating tensions, in the wake of a threat by Hacktivist group Anonymous to cyberattack the police department.

While this is not the first protest over excessive police force in the city, renewed tensions were spurred by two more fatal police shootings in just the last month. Here are some of the most shocking incidents since 2010 that have prompted the protests, and a Department of Justice investigation.

Shooting of a homeless camper.

In the most recent incident, police fired on a homeless man who appeared to be surrendering. Police reportedly shot 38-year-old James Boyd after an altercation erupted over his unlawfully camping in the Albuquerque foothills. Police first approached him while he was sleeping to talk to him about camping illegally. He reportedly had one or two knives in his hands, and told officers at one point that he was an agent for the Department of Defense. A YouTube video appears to show that at the time of the shots, Boyd had agreed to surrender and walk down the mountain with the officers. Police shot six rounds of bullets, but also fired non-lethal weapons including bean bag rounds and stun guns. The Department of Justice has opened its own criminal investigation in the matter. The police department initially said the shooting was “justified” but later suggested it may have been a mistake.

Less than ten days later, police shot and killed another man outside a housing complex. There is a dispute about whether victim Alfred Redwine had a gun in his hand and/or dropped the gun before the shots were fired.

Suicidal Iraq War veteran shot dead.

Iraq War Veteran Kenneth Ellis III was pointing a gun at his own head outside a 7-Eleven in 2010 when he was shot and killed. Ellis, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, had been talking with a crisis intervention negotiator when Officer Bret Lampiris-Tremba fired at Ellis. While an independent review officer ruled Lampiris-Tremba never should have fired, a citizen review commission later found the shooting justified. Ellis’ family later won a $10 million jury award, which turned into an $8 million settlement to avoid appeal.

911 call for suicide intervention ends in deadly shooting.

Russell Tenorio’s sister-in-law called 911 in 2010 hoping that police could help to calm him because he was threatening to harm himself. Instead, police did it for him, firing shots that caused him to lose a kidney and suffer permanent damage to his intestines. Officers said Tenorio continued to walk toward him with the 3-inch paring knife he said he would use to harm himself, despite commands to drop the knife and get on the ground. Tenorio survived the gunshots, but he spent 13 days in jail on charges of aggravated assault against a police officer until he posted $50,000 bail and later saw the charges dropped. The shooting, meanwhile, was deemed justified by a grand jury and officer Brian Pitzer has not faced any discipline for firing the gunshots, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Mentally ill man with a butter knife shot and killed.

19-year-old diagnosed as bipolar was fatally shot after threatening an officer with a “kitchen knife” similar to a butter knife. Chandler Barr had been taken to a mental health facility three days earlier after threatening suicide. When he was released, he went to a Greyhound station and cut his own wrists with the knife. Officer Leah Kelly “intercepted” Barr at an intersection after he left the bus station. Kelly said Barr threatened her with the knife and she shot him twice in the upper chest, killing him. The District Attorney’s office cleared Kelly of all wrongdoing, and Kelly faced no discipline, according to the Albuquerque Journal. A civil lawsuit is ongoing.

Officers “belly bump” over beating.

After beating a suspected car thief in a parking garage, video shows officers giving each other “belly bumps” to celebrate, according to CBS News. The two officers kicked the suspect in the head more than 12 times while one officer held the man down on the ground, and beat him with a baton. The officers were fired after the video became public.

Amidst this backdrop, the Albuquerque Journal also reported in 2012 that the local police union was awarding officers who fired shots payments of $300 to $500 so that they could decompress. This is in addition to counseling provided by the city.

Albuquerque officers have seen a particularly high number of shootings. New York City, by contrast, saw about the same number of deadly shootings for a population 15 times as high, according to the ACLU of New Mexico. Deadly shots by police officers are a regular occurrence around the country, particularly against the mentally ill and minorities. But apparent incidents of excessive force rarely result in discipline, let alone criminal charges. Increased recordings of the shootings have shed light on this phenomenon and raised questions about why officers turn to their guns before other less deadly means.

This post originally appeared on ThinkProgress

Photo Credit: Suzi Pratt via Flickr


Mark Donners
Mark Donner3 years ago

All you have to do is to watch the police shows on tv to see how barbaric and arrogant police act and that most US police are a race apart, and nothing like the general population.. Shaved heads, no neck sadism is rampant. Many police are criminals themselves who sign up to indulge their sadism tendencies, and the police departments know that.

Graham Parker
Graham P3 years ago

Wow I´m glad I live in Spain.

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper3 years ago


Michael T.
Michael T3 years ago

Would he respect that officer believing the officers decision to commit suicide was just and valid?

He became really thoughtful and looked at me intensely for a moment as the question made him realize that he looked at people as if they were a race apart from police officers and that this separation of himself and police officers as being different from everyday people wasn't right at all. He realized in that moment, that this difference, that he and many of his fellow officers shared about themselves, was flawed.

He believed that a fellow officer was justified if his decision was to commit suicide, but that it was a different issue for the rest of us not on the force. I believe he realized that such a belief system set them apart from us in just one more way.

Michael T.
Michael T3 years ago

I think one of the main problems lies in the fact that they are no longer a part of the community. They used to get around and got to know people. Granted there were times when the police developed dislikes for certain people who ended up not being treated fairly either, but they are now to distant from us, too tied to their technology, too tied to their brotherhood of silence no matter what happens and too distant from the people they are supposed to serve and protect. They are apart from us.

I remember once taking care of a guy in an ER who had been brought in for attempting a suicide. I noted that the guy, while very distressed and depressed about his life, was intelligent, and I also noticed how the cops looked down on him as if he was a sick piece of trash. I had an opportunity to pull the officer aside later and posed the following question to him about how he would look at a fellow officer who chose to eat his gun rather than go on with his life.

Debbie Wood
Debbie Wood3 years ago

It is terrible that the mentally ill, who are often just crying out for help, end up being killed by those who are supposed to help them. Last year we had an incident in my home where my son was threatening to kill himself. He was drug addicted and had stolen everything I had in my bank account and was desperate for more drugs. I called the police, out of concern for him as well as the rest of us. The police here handled it very well, did not pull guns, talked to him, calmed him down and got him into the police car, and Baker Acted him into a hospital. We are fortunate to have a police force and a sherrif that recognizes that people with mental illness and addiction need help and I was truely impressed with how they handled everything. This is in Clay county, Florida. I wish all police forces would do the same.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

Belly bumping? Are they teenagers or what? The excessive use of force in these cases is blatant and the lack of follow-through by the cities is distrubing. Citizens are not safe as long as this protected-cop mentality is accepted.

Warren Webber
Warren Webber3 years ago

Live long & prosper!

Ala Morales
Ala Morales3 years ago

Montreal police killing sparks public outrage. 43 cases of killing innocent people were documented since 1980 and the recent 3 cases of 2 mentally ill and a one young Latino18 years old.During the recent demonstrations by the students against austerity, an old man what pushed down by a cop where he hit his head on the side walk and was taken to the hospital. Our Montreal Police Chief Marc Parent and Minister of Public Security M. Stephan Bergeron are not doing anything to protect the public from corrupted cops. Montreal cops never have been charged for their killings who are dangerous to the society..

Michael T.
Michael T3 years ago

Supreme Court Upholds Legality of Videotaping Police

So there is some pushback against the police as well thankfully.