The Albuquerque Police Department is coming under fire for sending undercover police officers to film a group gathered to protest the city’s high number of police shootings.
Making matters worse, says an event organizer, one of the undercover officers himself was involved in a police shooting in 2012.
Several hundred people gathered Saturday at an Albuquerque park to protest against what they believe is an epidemic of officer-involved shootings, KRQE reported.
The issue came to a head earlier this year when Albuquerque police released video showing two officers shooting and killing James Boyd, a homeless man. Boyd appeared to be cooperating with the two officers when they started firing on him.
Boyd was one of 26 people to have been killed by Albuquerque police since Jan. 2010. The high number of shootings has prompted a number of community protests as well as a Department of Justice investigation.
According to KRQE, Albuquerque police had been in contact with the event’s organizers and had sent a number of uniformed officers to Saturday’s rally, which featured several speakers and a mock trial for police Chief Gorden Eden.
But the department went a step further by sending undercover officers to gather intel at the gathering.
Reporters at KRQE spotted an undercover officer wearing a tie-dyed t-shirt and dark sunglasses with long hair and an unkempt beard.
The disguised officer, part of the police force’s Criminal Intelligence Unit, carried a camera and was seen filming and photographing the rally.
The sergeant, who KRQE refused to name, was involved in the Aug. 6, 2012 shooting of Dominick Solis-Mora. The shooting occurred after the officer claimed that Solis-Mora man pointed a gun at him during a drug bust in which the 20-year-old allegedly sold $200 worth of heroin to an undercover officer.
Solis-Mora was hit in the stomach but survived the shooting.
“I don’t understand how protecting us is infiltrating us,” event organizer Sayrah Namaste told KRQE. “We are peaceful, we were lawful, there was no issue with the people who were marching today so, why were they surveilling us? That doesn’t make sense.”
“If the officer who infiltrated us today was someone who shot a member of our community, that officer should not be on the streets,” said Namaste, adding that it was “insensitive” and “offensive” to send an officer involved in a shooting to a rally with family members of people that have been shot by police.
According to KRQE, police officials mostly refused to respond to questions about the use of undercover officers. A department spokesman did confirm that undercover agents were patrolling the event.
They were sent to “ensure [the protesters’] safety and the safety of the community,” said officer Daren DeAguero, according to KRQE.