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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 12/8/14

Inside the Twisted Police Department That Kills Unarmed Citizens at the Highest Rate in the Country

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Reprinted from AlterNet

Hyper-militarized cops here have killed residents with shocking impunity.

Image of police in riot gear
Image of police in riot gear
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When an Albuquerque police officer shot his 22-year-old son to death, Mike Gomez was determined to crusade for justice. Three years later, he is simply despondent.

"It's so frustrating," Gomez told me. "There's no accountability here. There's no justice. There's no respect. There's no humanity here. There's nothing. It's so disgusting that they get away with it."

A single father, Mike Gomez struggled for years to help his son, Alan, cope with a substance abuse problem. When Mike Gomez left town on May 10, 2011, Alan Gomez fell back into his addiction and was overcome with paranoid delusions. He began pacing back and forth on the front lawn of his brother's house, holding a conversation with an imaginary person about gang members assembling to kill him. Alarmed family members eventually phoned a dispatcher from the Albuquerque police, who summoned police to what she mistakenly believed was a hostage situation.

From across town, an off-duty cop named Sean Wallace heard the alert blare through his scanner, then barreled over to the scene before a crisis intervention officer could arrive. Without provocation, Wallace opened fire, killing Alan Gomez with a high-powered rifle as he entered the house through a screen door. The troubled young man was holding nothing in his hand but a plastic spoon.

With his death, Alan Gomez joined the list of at least 27 people killed by Albuquerque police officers since 2010, and the more than 40 wounded by gunfire. In a city of just over 540,000, the body count is staggering. Indeed, the rate of officer-involved shootings by Albuquerque police is eight times that of the NYPD and two times higher than in Chicago, a megalopolis with one of the steepest levels of violent crime in the country.

Alan Wagman, an assistant public defender who served on Albuquerque's Police Oversight Commission, told me he observed a pattern of brutality that extended well beyond the shooting of unarmed people. He described witnessing numerous cases of officers applying a technique known as a "sternum rub" to homeless people. "They take their knuckles and hold it against the breastbone, push and rub back and forth," Wagman explained. "The pain is so extreme only a comatose person wouldn't wake up. So cops will come upon a passed-out drunk, give him a sternum rub, the person wakes up and hits the cop and they charge him with assault on a peace officer. I've seen this more than once. It's clear they're trained to do this."

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