#BBCtrending: Police under fire for shooting homeless man
- 26 March 2014
A video of police shooting a homeless man in New Mexico has shocked many, and been viewed more than 700,000 times on YouTube.
The footage wasn't captured by a member of the public, but by the police themselves - using cameras attached to their uniforms. The graphic film was posted online on Friday following a public information request. Most people commenting appear outraged by the incident which they think shows a gross misuse of power.
According to local reports, 38-year-old James Boyd was sleeping in the Albuquerque foothills in mid-March when officers approached him about camping illegally in the area. It's believed that Boyd, who reportedly has a criminal history and may have suffered mental health problems, argued with them for three hours before the events shown in the video. On picking up his belongings to leave, the officers fire a flash bang - a disorienting device - a Taser, two rifles, a bean bag rifle and release a police dog as well. Boyd is seen clutching two small knives which he takes out after shots are fired. He died a day later in hospital.
The Albuquerque Police Department was one of the first - and still one of the few - in the country to require officers to wear cameras. The system is now being trialled in a number of other cities as well. The policy clearly leaves the department open to a far greater degree of criticism on social media than before. Indeed, the response to the footage on YouTube has been ferocious. "What careless disregard for human life," was one typical comment, and "I usually side with the police, but this is just cruel," read another.
Steven Robert Allen of the American Civil Liberties Union says he found the footage disturbing. He wonders whether the police could have approached Boyd in a way "that deescalated the situation and left him alive".
The Albuquerque Police Department has been involved in a number of controversial shootings in recent years, and was already the subject of a federal investigation. Gordon Eden, the new police chief, said at a press conference this shooting was justified because his officers were under threat. But the city's mayor Richard Berry has now intervened to say Eden's comment came prematurely and was "a mistake". The incident is the subject of an ongoing investigation.
Reporting by Sam Judah
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