Video: NM officer fatally shoots teen carrying replica

June 8 shooting of a teenager who displayed what turned out to be a cap gun was determined to be justified Wednesday

By Mark Oswald
Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

SANTA FE, N.M. — An Espanola police officer's fatal shooting of a teenager who displayed what turned out to be only a cap gun was determined to be justified by a grand jury, Santa Fe District Attorney Angela "Spence" Pacheco announced Wednesday.

Pacheco said the parents of Victor Villalpando, 16, "were very upset" with the jury's decision. Efforts by the Journal to reach the parents Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Pacheco showed previously unreleased surveillance video from a nearby store that showed the June 8 shooting of Villalpando, and she played previously released 911 phone call audio. Villalpando himself had called police to the scene.

The video shows Villalpando standing against a wall at Riverside Drive and Corlett Road apparently waiting for police. On the 911 call, he identifies himself as "James" and says "James" is "screaming and hitting himself" and "wanted to die, but I don't know." Two officers and public safety aide responded quickly by foot, from a nearby restaurant where they were dining. The video is not clear in showing detail, but does indicate that the encounter went from seemingly routine to fatal in about three seconds.

Villalpando turns around with his hands up on the wall as if to yield to a search, then jumps away. Facing the officers, he appears to be grabbing for something — possibly his phone — from a rear pocket at the same time that he seems to reach for something else — apparently the cap gun — with his other hand, from the front of his body. In an instant, one of the officers fires and the teen goes down.

Pacheco said officer Jeremy Apodaca had pulled his sidearm and ordered the teen to put up his hands. Apodaca shot Villalpando once in the chest, Pacheco said, after the officer first noticed a gun in Villalpando's waistband through his shirt and then the teen pulled the cap gun.

After the shooting, Villalpando threw the toy gun away, pulled a knife and stabbed out towards an officer, Pacheco said. The video shows one small object skidding away from Villalpando as he falls from the shot, him throwing another object toward the officers after he's down and officers kicking away a third item as they pull at him.

A dying Villalpando said, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I can't breathe," said Pacheco, characterizing officer testimony before the grand jury.

The boy's adoptive parents, Mary Shoemaker and Patricia Shure of El Rito, watched the video with Pacheco on Wednesday morning. "It was very painful," said Pacheco. "It's very difficult for a parent to see your son get shot and die. They didn't think the officers should have shot. ... They felt the police officers should have more training to deal with people with mental issues."

The boy had exchanged text messages in which he said "he didn't want to live" and for friends "to watch the news something big was going to happen," the district attorney said. Villalpando also alluded to unrequited love from a girl.

An autopsy showed Villalpando, a talented dancer set to attend the New Mexico School for the Arts, had marijuana in his system, Pacheco said.

Pacheco displayed photos of the cap gun to show what officers saw. "They see a barrel and they are trained to respond," she said.

Copyright 2014 the Albuquerque Journal 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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