Police Abuse

Albuquerque Cop Shoots Undercover Officer Over $60 Meth Deal


Albuquerque Journal

A police officer in Albuquerque shot an undercover narcotics officer during a $60 meth deal this weekend. The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) won't release the names of any of the officers involved or provide an explanation of how the shooting happened or why. Here's what the Albuquerque Journal reports:

The criminal complaint states that [undercover officer Holly] Garcia met a suspect, Damien Bailey, whose name is also spelled Damian Bailey in jail records, near Dunes and Whispering Sands SE to buy $60 worth of "shards," which is a slang term for meth. She arrived with [undercover officer Jacob] Grant, who was assisting her in the investigation.

Nearby narcotics detectives watched Bailey get in the front passenger seat of the car Garcia was driving and another man, Edmond Vester, get in the rear passenger seat, according to the complaint.

Garcia drove them to the Econo Lodge near Central and Tramway. Vester went into a room at the motel and came back to the vehicle with the meth, according to the complaint.

Garcia then drove to the McDonald's nearby and gave the bust signal. It was then that the shooting took place. Witnesses said they heard around five shots. Police said the officer was shot multiple times, but the exact number wasn't known.

In the aftermath of the shooting, the car doors where Bailey and Vester were sitting were open, but police haven't released details about any perceived threat or why the lieutenant opened fire. The complaint makes no mention of the suspects having a gun at the scene.

Bailey and Vester were taken into custody. They were booked into jail early Saturday on drug trafficking charges.

"We're getting some push back because (the investigation) was for $60 of meth," said Albuquerque police officer Tanner Tixier, a spokesman. "But that's how these investigations work. You start with $20, $40, $60 buys. You can't just go out and buy five pounds of meth."

Tixier may be right. But a $60 buy won't lead to a deal for five pounds of meth if you've bust the guy selling $60 worth of meth. Perhaps cops were hoping to get him to turn state's evidence—to pressure him into being a snitch in exchange for not throwing him in jail for trying to sell a product someone told him they wanted to buy. It's not possible when the bust and the complaint ends up in the news, helped along there by sloppy police work.

Over the last few years, police in Albuquerque have fatally shot more people than the New York Police Department, despite New York City having a population 7 15 times higher. The Department of Justice announced the results of its review into abuse at the APD, finding reason to believe systematic civil rights violations were occurring. Limiting the interactions between police and residents by decriminalizing inherently non-violent behavior is an important first step in helping to get cops to chill out.