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Video: NM officer fatally shoots armed fleeing suspect

Police said Robert Savelli refused to comply with the officer's commands, which led him to confront the driver

By Clarice Silber
Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Albuquerque police officer killed a man who apparently brandished a gun after he was pulled over on his moped scooter, authorities said.

The unnamed officer attempted to pull over the driver, identified as Robert Savelli, 43, after noticing his scooter didn't have a license plate, department spokeswoman Celina Espinoza said.

Savelli refused to comply with the officer's commands, which led him to confront the driver, Espinoza said.

The officer felt threatened at some point, and responded by opening fire on Savelli, she said. Espinoza refused to discuss the circumstances of the threat, but a spokesman told the Albuquerque Journal that Savelli pointed his gun at the officer.

It's the third deadly shooting this year by officers at Albuquerque Police Department as the agency implements court-ordered reforms following a U.S. Justice Department investigation of its deadly force policies. The 2014 shooting of a homeless man who was holding two knives prompted widespread angry protests in the city and was a major part of the government investigation.

The scathing federal report described a culture of aggression and faulted officers for using unreasonable force with the mentally ill.

Since then, the department has seen fewer deadly police shootings. Last year officers wounded or killed a total of six people, a drop from nine individuals in 2015.

The department still has a long ways to go, critics say.

"Unfortunately we don't seem to have the systems in place yet in this department to adequately determine whether a use of force is justified or not, and so that's a big part of the problem," said Steve Allen with the American Civil Liberties Union in New Mexico.

The department is working hard to improve its policies involving use of force and behavioral health reform, Police Chief Gorden Eden said last month.

Police said a witness to Monday night's incident reported that Savelli had a firearm, which authorities later located on the scene. Savelli was taken to the hospital, where he died, and the officer was not struck by gunfire or injured, Espinoza said.

The officer involved has been employed by the department for nine years and captured the incident on his body camera, authorities said. That video along with surveillance footage will be released following completed witness interviews.

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