03/10/2014

Video: NM man shot by police wanted 'suicide by cop'

Prior calls made it clear the suspect wanted to commit suicide by police officer

By Patrick Lohmann
Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque police on Saturday released the frantic, fast-moving lapel-camera video that shows three officers firing what sounds like more than a dozen rounds at a 35-year-old man who was brandishing a metal brake pad and/or a knife at officers in early December.

The hours of video from around a dozen Albuquerque Police Department officers show just how quickly officers reacted to what they thought was a gun in Shaine Sherrill's hands during the confrontation in the Northeast Heights. Two of the officers started firing when they leapt out of their police cruisers upon arriving on scene and the first officer to arrive can be heard shouting "Drop the gun! Drop the gun!" before the officers fire.

Sherrill can be seen in one officer's video walking slowly with his arms raised and an object in his hands, and he falls quickly under a hail of gunfire. Police had sought Sherrill after the mother of his children called 911 to report that Sherrill had become angry over not seeing his kids and slammed his backpack into her car.

While on the way to meet Sherrill, according to lapel videos and an audio file of radio communications between officers and police dispatch, officers were told about prior calls where Sherrill made it clear that he wanted to commit suicide by police officer and that he was suicidal. That information was disseminated through the Real-Time Crime Center, which references crime data and other databases in hopes of giving officers as much information as possible about a call while in the field. The tool was touted at the time as potentially a way to reduce the number of deadly-force encounters between officers and possibly suicidal or mentally ill suspects.

Officers finally found Sherrill near Northeastern and Wyoming NE, and fired. One officer can be seen kicking what looks like a knife away from Sherrill's body and then several more officers rush to give the suspect medical attention. Officers applied tourniquets to Sherrill's legs and slapped adhesive bandages on gunshot wounds on his back.

Throughout the ordeal, Sherrill can be heard groaning "help me," as officers turned him onto his stomach and back, and removed his clothing and handcuffs. He was eventually rushed in critical condition to a hospital, where he later recovered and was booked into jail. Charges were eventually dropped against Sherrill, but prosecutors can still re-file them, according to online court records. Sherrill also had a number of felony warrants out when confronted by police, according to APD.

Police still haven't said how many times they shot Sherrill, but his mother later told the Journal that her son had at least seven gunshot wounds.

In a brief news conference after the shooting, then-APD interim chief Allen Banks said that officers believed Sherrill had a gun.

And it apparently wasn't just the officers who thought Sherrill was armed with a handgun. Police also released a few 911 phone calls from witnesses. Not only did all of those witnesses say Sherrill pulled out a handgun and pointed it at officers, but at least two also said Sherrill fired upon officers when they arrived.

The Dec. 1 shooting was APD's seventh of 2013, and it prompted an outcry from some community activists and Sherrill's relatives, who criticized the department for being slow to release information about the shooting. Banks, in the news conference, showed a single still from the lapel-camera video released Saturday, but said that all other records associated with the shooting would be kept under wraps until the investigation was complete.

The Kennedy Law Firm, in mid-January, filed a lawsuit against the department on behalf of Sherrill's family, claiming that the department was illegally withholding the documents. Attorneys at the firm could not be reached for comment Saturday and APD Chief Gorden Eden was out of town. An APD spokesman said the chief could address the shooting on Monday.

Copyright 2014 the Albuquerque Journal

 


McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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