Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson Says Alton Sterling's Shooting Could Be "Murder"

But the Libertarian presidential candidate fails to recall "egregious police shootings" while he was governor of New Mexico.


I knew I shoulda made that left turn at Albuqerque
Patrick Ryland

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson says the shooting of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge (La.) police officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake could be "murder." 

Johnson told Buzzfeed News yesterday that the widely circulated cell phone videos showing the shooting of Sterling — who was pinned to the ground and on his back during an altercation with police outside a supermarket — were "very disturbing." From the interview:

"I heard, 'He's got a gun.' Well, what does that mean?," Johnson told BuzzFeed News. "If there was no display of a gun, if he didn't have it in his hand…if his hand wasn't being suppressed, I don't get it. I mean, that's murder."

The former governor of New Mexico gave non-committal answers when asked what, if any, potential policies could be introduced to make police shootings more rare. Johnson says he opposes "one-size-fits-all" use-of-force policies that would run the spectrum from the local to the federal level, but that he would support "highlighting a police force in a given city that has the least amount of shootings" as a "model" for reform. 

When asked if during his time as the Republican governor of New Mexico there were any cases where video appeared to show a police officer using unnecessary deadly force, Johnson replied, "We weren't into the egregious police shootings from '95 to 2002. It really wasn't happening. It certainly wasn't happening in New Mexico, as opposed to today."

This is untrue, particularly in Albuquerque, New Mexico's largest city.

federal investigation concluded in 2014 that the city's police "officers routinely violated the Constitutional rights of residents, unjustly beating them, shocking them with tasers, and even shooting them dead," according to the The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf. Moreover, The Economist wrote, "No [Albuquerque] police officer has been prosecuted for unlawful killing, yet the city has had to pay out $24m in legal settlements to victims' relatives. The Police Oversight Commission is weak, underfunded and quarrelsome."

But this investigation took place more than a decade after Johnson left office. So were there no "egregious police shootings from '95 to 2002" by the APD? 

Former Reasoner and current Washington Post writer Radley Balko writes that yes, the APD's use-of-force issues were well-known while Johnson was the state's chief executive. The following excerpt is from Balko's book The Rise of the Warrior Cop:

In 1998 the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico brought in Jerry Galvin to take over the police department after a series of questionable shootings and SWAT incidents moved the city to commission an outside investigation. In one incident that made national news, one SWAT officer said to his colleagues, "Let's go get the bad guy," just before the team went to confront 33-year-old Larry Walker. The "bad guy" wasn't a terrorist, killer, or even a drug dealer, but depressed man whose family had called the police because they feared he might be contemplating suicide. The SWAT team showed up in full battle attire, including assault rifles and flash grenades. They found Walker "cowering under a juniper tree," the New York Times later reported, then shot him dead from 43 feet away.

The city brought in Sam Walker, a well-regarded criminologist at the University of Nebraska, to evaluate the police department's use of lethal force. Walker was astonished by what he found. "The rate of police killings was just off the charts," Walker told the Times. The city's SWAT team, he said, "had an organizational structure that led them to escalate situations upward rather than de-escalating." The city then brought in Galvin, who immediately disbanded the SWAT team, toned down the militarism, and implemented community policing policies. Galvin told the Times, "If cops have a mindset that the goal is to take out a citizen, it will happen."

David Correia wrote in the Albuquerque-based alt-weekly magazine Alibi in 2014, the "APD killed 31 people in the 10-year period ending in 1997, a number that placed Albuquerque in a category all its own. No other police department in the United States of comparable size (or smaller) killed as many people as the Albuquerque Police Department did."

This period includes the first three years of Johnson's tenure as governor, and it beggars belief that he would not be aware of it.

It's encouraging that Johnson is taking an interest in criminal justice reform and police use-of-force, but a little self-reflection on his apparent ignorance of what was happening with the police in his state's largest city might help him form some more substantive ideas for reform. 

NEXT: American Pessimism: Only 6 Percent Think the World Is Getting Better

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Why’s he throwing rocks and not talking about the officers longstanding commitment to public service?

    1. Don’t be bitter, Mashie.

    2. So much this. As soon as I read the first paragraph I was surprised – nay, amazed, that GJ was so willing to say something negative about this act of corruption.

    3. Not that they are always right, but the betting market shows a higher probability of Biden winning the presidential election than Johnson does.

    4. I’m making over $15k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.
      This is what I do_________

  2. The police acted stupidly? Why is he even commenting on this? Pivot any question on the topic to the need for criminal justice reform. But if you’re afraid to talk about Hillary Clinton’s obvious guilt, then don’t talk about the specifics of the day to day injustices we all have to endure from our government agents.

    1. He has made a point in responding to other questions that his opinion was immaterial since the President had no control over the topic. Here he goes out of his way to step into something he had no control over (if that is really true; I don’t know about governors and city cops in general, or the NM case specifically) while refusing to condemn Hillary for her activities which are absolutely in play.

      Still better than Hillary or Trump,, but man he is backsliding.

  3. This incident is really going to be difficult for progs since they are either going to have to turn against Sterling or acknowledge the legitimacy of concealed carry.

    1. Likewise for right wingers who will have to choose between law enforcement and conceal carry.. they love guns.. but they love licking boots as well, maybe more

      1. That, too.

    2. Oh, the spinning of my reliable Facebook progs has already started. CCW gave the cop an excuse to murder. If we didn’t have CCW, the cops couldn’t weasel out of it by claiming self defense. What we need is fewer gus, and that will allow us to have fewer cops.


      1. Guns, not gus. There’s a Take The Money And Run joke in there, somewhere.

        1. You tried to blow into the instrument?

          1. +1 cello

      2. CCW gave the cop an excuse to murder. If we didn’t have CCW, the cops couldn’t weasel out of it by claiming self defense

        ^ This.

    3. Nothing is difficult for progs.

      Like it or not, hiveminds excel at exploring all possible solutions and settling on the most fit one (not necessarily the most correct solution, just one that fits a set of criteria).

    4. I am still waiting for Obama to appear in Baton Rouge to “comfort” the grieving families and yet again demand immediate action on common-sense Police Control.

      1. Yeah, you would think that he could have done something about this if he’d have really wanted to. Granted, POTUS has no direct authority over local LEOs, but he does have a bully pulpit, etc.

    5. Castile is the case where the murder victim had a concealed carry licence.

      1. Yep. Sterling is the case where conservatives are going to have to reconcile their supposed belief in self-defense with their knee-jerk “he’s no angel”-ism.

        1. Assuming Sterling actually had a gun, that is.

          1. Independent video shows police removing a gun from Sterling’s pocket. The unofficially official merchant witness who is presumed to be the anonymous 911 caller that claimed Sterling was brandishing a gun/ threatening people confirms that the police pulled a gun from officers pockets.

            You could assert Sterling was a patsy and that it’s all a frame job, but that’s spinning an awful big conspiracy with precious little supporting facts (currently) and for not a lot of means, motive, and opportunity (currently).

            1. Er… police pulled a gun from *Sterling’s* pocket.

            2. If he had a gun then he had a gun. I was just hedging because there is precedent for cops claiming that someone they murdered was packing when it was really a banana or something.

            3. Did the cops take the gun out of his pocket before or after they shot him in the back while he was already restrained?

              1. Did the cops take the gun out of his pocket before or after they shot him in the back while he was already restrained?

                They shot him in the chest and he wasn’t *restrained* as in ‘in restraints’ as much as restrained as in ‘unable to draw from his right pocket with his left hand’. Regardless, a 911 call was made that he had a gun and friends/eyewitness/video confirm that he was armed. IMO, from a libertarian perspective, it makes little difference in the life of Alton Sterling whether the police shot him to death or whomever called 911 employed a private security firm or took it upon themselves to do what was done.

                Better outcomes were possible, I don’t think any party is without a doubt responsible for not achieving them. Moreover, lots of highly desirable solutions require altered states of reality and/or giving police and felons powers that don’t generally conform to or abide by the tenets of libertarianism.

                1. Video available at Daily Beast

                  Anyway, go to :30 of that video to see the officer retrieve the pistol from Sterling’s right front pocket. The same pocket, incidentally, that the cops claim Sterling kept trying to reach for with his unpinned right hand and arm. Contra to the claims at the Beast, if a bad guy’s reaching for a gun, neither the cops nor you and I need to wait til the bad guy actually has the gun in his hand before he can be considered a threat of deadly force or serious bodily injury.

                  I’ve no idea why so many of you here keep defending Sterling. So many bad uses of force by law enforcement to choose from—like the one below, for instance—and people are picking this case?

                  OTOH, The Philando Castile case in Minnesota so far looks ugly as hell for law enforcement (though not as ugly as it was for Mr. Castile…) and is consequently a much better one for highlighting law enforcement issues like:

                  Increased LEO militarization
                  “Officer safety” policies that trade off increased officer safety with a much greater risk of injury to the citizenry
                  The War on Some Drugs leading to erosion of the Fourth Amendment.

                  1. I saw someone on the internet was wrong, and had to stop my actual productive work for the day to correct them:

                    Better outcomes were possible, I don’t think any party is without a doubt responsible for not achieving them.

                    The responsible party is without a doubt the responding police officers. They were 100% responsible for this killing, because they escalated the situation. The police were able to change the outcome in may ways, the victim/suspect could not do anything that would have guaranteed he would not have been shot.

                    1. If the police suspected he was armed and dangerous, they should not have gotten into a wrestling match on the ground with an armed suspect.
                    2. Worried about officer getting hurt? Call SWAT team, ask the suspect to lay down his weapon, slowly, or assume face down on the ground position.
                    3. Check that the suspect/victim has a concealed weapons permit on the radio (probably given that information in the radio call), and approach him with that in mind, not pants-shittingly scared.
                    4. If you get in a wrestling match with an armed suspect, you are either mindbogglingly stupid, incredible heroic (see previous), have forgotten every bit of training you have ever had, or have been trained by absolute morons.

                    mad.casual, I’ve rarely had much issue with your comments, but I think you dropped an egg on this one.

                  2. @Gray Ghost – because we are not picking and choosing among these cases, we are pretty much upset by the pattern we are seeing. In every case the police officer are escalating the situation and the situation created by their own actions to justify killing whoever they have stopped this time.

                    If I am carrying a concealed weapon, I don’t want to be caught in the same situation, where through no actions of my own I give a police officer an excuse to shoot me, what, 5-6 times? [I’m a big guy, better empty the gun].

                2. “Better outcomes were possible”

                  Isn’t this all we really want?

      2. I think both of these murders can be used to illustrate something to progressives: This is how the laws they love will ultimately be enforced. Noncompliance is a death sentence.

        1. True, but in this type of discussion, where cop-fellators and gun-grabbers both indulge in hyper-parsing everything, preciseness is a virtue.

          1. White Racists, please give up Your guns and stop applauding Our murders.

          2. Cop Fellators and Gun Grabbers would be a good name for a libertarian band

            1. Gun Fellating Cop Grabbers?

      3. Oops, sorry. Thanks.

    6. No they won’t, they’ll just say “See! Your in greater danger by being armed” the same way they love to claim that you are more likely to shoot accidentally shoot a family member than use your gun in self-defense

  4. I’ve suddenly lost interest in anything Gary Johnson says.

    1. Don’t worry, unless you are a disaffected Bernie voter, he doesn’t give a shit about you anyways.

      1. He hasn’t endorsed Hillary yet?

        1. No, possible endorsement next week since it doesn’t look like she is going to jail.

          1. Ah, thanks. I imagine his holdout supporters will fall in line or just stay home.

            1. I’m hoping both sides have record low turnout.
              Percentage wise, the lp could look a lot tougher.

    2. Just now?

      1. There was still a little hope left in my dark soul. But I’m better now, it’s gone.

  5. New video of Sterling murder released.

    The police with the “dislodged” body cams confiscated the store’s video footage, but not the owner’s cell phone video.

    1. Also, the store says he saw no evidence of Sterling waving a gun around either before or after the cops arrived. The 911 call claiming that Sterling was brandishing a weapon hasn’t been released.

      1. The 911 call claiming that Sterling was brandishing a weapon hasn’t been released.

        If this ends up largely redacted or disappeared, *then* I’ll believe there’s some sort of explicit criminal conspiracy on the part of officers going on. I don’t disagree that the officers contributed to the escalation, but until I hear what the 911 caller did or didn’t say, I can’t definitively say who was ‘most guilty’ in escalating what.

        You know what would be *really* fucked up but not entirely outside the realm of possibility (IMO)? The BLM activist in the car, who shot the first video, having some sort of altercation with Sterling and precipitating his death/initiating force/invoking escalation.

        1. What would be the charge? Premeditated accessory?

          1. Being clear, I’m spitballing hypotheticals rather than attempting to prognosticate facts not in evidence. I think it would mostly be a ‘trial in the court of public opinion’ sort of thing, but anything that they charge people with SWATting for; false report, conspiracy, misscarriage/obstruction, hoax…

            More to my point, cops staging/fabricating a 911 call to roll up on and kill a petty criminal seems like a lot of hassle and risk, both criminal and physical, for not a lot of (apparent/currently obvious) payoff. Meanwhile, getting a patsy executed and while you sit back and film the whole thing to advance your political cause seems like a crystal clear conspiracy theory practically begging to be perpetrated if it hasn’t already.

            1. Meanwhile, getting a patsy executed and while you sit back and film the whole thing to advance your political cause seems like a crystal clear conspiracy theory practically begging to be perpetrated if it hasn’t already.

              Or, at the very least, getting someone killed in a quasi-legal fashion and then branding yourself as innocent in the court of public opinion by declaring yourself to be a part of the BML movement seems just as predictable as cops getting a call about a violent felon and him ending up dead.

              1. Pretty good…

                *tightens foil homburg*

                1. *tips spangenhelm appreciatively*

                  I left off the part where the local crooked public official, tired of dealing with the BLM movement, orchestrates the whole thing.

        2. Translation: I don’t believe in conspiracies that don’t fit my world view. So instead let me throw out a conspiracy that, even though there is no evidence for it, makes me feel comfortable.

          1. Wow. Some of you guys really are turning this into a religion. I just… wow.

        3. There doesn’t have to be an explicit criminal conspiracy for shooting the guy to be wrong.

          1. Agreed but, of course, that key also open a box that says, “I didn’t see him commit a crime but I know, in my gut, he was a bad guy and deserved what he got.” inside.

      2. I’m guessing the 911 call was from an uptight person or liberal, who sees anyone who chooses to own a gun as a psycho. been becoming more common for cops to get called on someone legally carrying, with no improper behavior.

    2. Somehow, i’m sure, that video still doesn’t tell the whole story.

  6. OT: Comey is testifying that Hillary was fucking incompetent about classified material.

    1. What does any of that matter if she isn’t being prosecuted for it? the Obama Administration’s entire argument every time their corruption has been exposed is “we aren’t corrupt, just incompetent”.

        1. And this should be shouted from the rooftops.

          Congresscreatures were openly incredulous at Comey’s assertion that H — who had classification authority, mind you — did not understand *the most basic markings*.

          1. “…did not understand *the most basic markings*.”

            Well, she is just a wymin….

        2. Progs are currently in damage-control mode, pointing out all the Team Red people who weren’t prosecuted. IOW, failure to do the right thing in the past justifies not doing it now. No more rule of law.

          1. Yes, the same tactics are applied when my oldest daughter attempts to escape trouble in our household.

            1. She blames Bush?

          2. Tu quoque is a perfectly reasonable argument. No fallacy there, nope nope nope

    2. “But she didn’t lie to the FBI!” And after all, that’s what counts.

      1. See, but Comey said they haven’t even determined that. They didn’t bother to do ‘analysis’ or ‘parse’ her interview before clearing her.

  7. Comey just said that they have yet to parse over Hillary’s interview to see if she lied…

    Which raises the question of why they rushed to make that announcement.

  8. But Hillary is an honest, hard-working politician or whatever he said about her.

  9. “Director Comey, is integrity important to you?”

    “Yes. I also love my family and friends”

  10. These “representatives’ of the people look like mutants

  11. Obama promised to fundamentally transform America. He has. The Federal Government now functions like the Chicago political machine. No one even pretends to have integrity.

    1. I keep waiting for him to appear dressed like this:

      https://flashpoint2016.files.wordpress. com/2013/03/obama-as-dictator-in-uniform.jpeg

      What a pain in the ass…a word that is too long. Fix that shit Reason.

      There is a break between dot and com

  12. “If the illegal killing of Black people by the police bothers you, as it should, talk to your White friends about it. There are many nuances and ambiguities in institutional racism, but the police committing murder is not one of them. In many cases, having these conversations will not be easy. The more you talk about race, however, the easier it will become. You might even change some minds, particularly among family members. If you’re already spending time talking to other White people about race, now is a good time to help other White people develop their skills.”

    @ my fellow white friends, please share & speak

    1. Stirring the racism shit pot will change people’s minds alright, just not in the way you want.

      1. My Facebook friends are morons.

        1. Not just your’s…

    2. The illegal killing by police of anyone bothers me. What should bother blacks is the staggering number of blacks killed by other blacks. It makes the statistical comparison of ‘cops that kill blacks’ vs ‘blacks that kill blacks’ virtually insignificant.

      1. I could be wrong, but aren’t more whites killed by police, per encounter?
        I remember reading that somewhere.

        1. Yes. But it’s always written off as “Well, white people are a higher percentage of the population so of course more of them will die in the aggregate.

          [insert old adage about statistics can lie to prove anything]

      2. I agree, but that’s like saying people in Syria should stop worrying about Russia and Iran bombing them when ISIS alone kills more innocent Syrians than the Russians and Iranians could ever hope to do.

        Black on black violence is terrible and contributes to a good portion of their murders, but that doesn’t mean everyone else (especially the government and its agents) shouldn’t try to do their part to lessen the unjustified deaths coming from their end.

      3. I agree, but that’s like saying people in Syria should stop worrying about Russia and Iran bombing them when ISIS alone kills more innocent Syrians than the Russians and Iranians could ever hope to do.

        Black on black violence is terrible and contributes to a good portion of their murders, but that doesn’t mean everyone else (especially the government and its agents) shouldn’t try to do their part to lessen the unjustified deaths coming from their end.

    3. i get pissed when the cops kill a dog, with no good reason. cops killing, without good reason… is the problem. i don’t care if their faulty perceptions are formed by race, tattoos, what hat you wear, or what model car you are driving (I’m amazed more Prius drivers are not gunned down).

      the focus on race, ignores the real problem…. cops who are too quick and eager to use excessive force…. (and the fact that the victim typically bleeds out, while they PREVENT others from rendering care.)

      does racism still exist?… sure (but not in the way racism was historically defined). is it the problem that urgently needs to be fixed? no.

  13. And Johnson could be a ‘contender’ if he wasn’t such a wishy-washy Libertarian.

  14. Do you know who else engaged in acts that could be considered murder?

    1. The hunters in ‘Bambi’?

    2. Dennis reynolds when he nails his apartment door?

    3. Freddy Mercury?

    4. Planned…9 from Outer Space?

  15. Comey just admitted that Hillary was not interviewed under oath, that no recordings or transcripts exist, and that he did not talk with all the interviewing agents.

    1. Comey is a squirmer

    2. Top notch. That’s the level of detective work I expect from the FBI

    3. The hearing is a shitshow.

      Comey keeps saying The Hildebeast is as guilty as sin but she won’t be prosecuted. The most telling statement he made was when he slipped in “I love my family and friends”

      Hillary should be addressed as ‘Inmate no. xyz’ instead of ‘Madam President’.

      1. The most telling statement he made was when he slipped in “I love my family and friends”

        Makes you wonder what kinds of threats were made against him should he recommend charges against our future monarch.

        1. It doesnt make me wonder at all.

        2. “I love my family and friends, it would be a shame if something happened to them”

      2. The hearing is a shitshow.

        Yep. It is, however, great for highlighting differences in, um, mentality between the Dems and the Repubs.

        1. Every time a Dem starts speaking I’m reminded of this scene:

          Birch Barlow: Mayor Quimby, you are well known for your lenient stance on crime, but suppose for a second that your house was ransacked by thugs, your family was tied up in the basement with socks in their mouths, you try to open the door but there’s too much blood on the knob….

          Mayor Quimby: What is your, ah, question?

          Birch Barlow: My question is about the budget, sir.

      3. I sort of think that calling the hearing a shitshow is demeaning to both shit AND shows.

        1. Agreed!

          /German pr0n producer

      4. Scott Adams has nailed this as well.

    4. Comey also admitted he was not there when she was interviewed

        1. What better way to maintain his objectivitHAHAHAHAHAA!! Damn, couldn’t quite get it out!

    5. Ha ha, you’re kidding, right?

      1. No. I wish I were.

        This stuff is simply amazing.

    6. God, look, it was the holiday weekend! How much work do you want the man to do?

  16. Can Gary Johnson go away now? Maybe he can run as Hillary’s VP or something (assuming Weld hasn’t already taken the spot).

    Maybe he can just stop calling himself a ‘libertarian’ and admit that he’s a delusional ‘Rockefeller Republican’. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are far more ‘libertarian’ than this fool. Reason’s dumb strategy of pandering to Leftists at the expense of principle will be thoroughly discredited after Johnson fails to get above 1%, yet again.

  17. Another STUPID comment from Johnson along with those about Hillary and the Racist. I guess I’m really NOT a Liberaltarian(sic).

  18. So vote Hillary

  19. The former governor of New Mexico gave non-committal answers when asked what, if any, potential policies could be introduced to make police shootings more rare.

    How about following the instructions that Alexander Hamilton gave to the captains of the Revenue Marine service? It was this:

    They will always keep in mind that their countrymen are freemen, and, as such, are impatient of everything that bears the least mark of a domineering spirit. They will, therefore, refrain, with the most guarded circumspection, from whatever has the semblance of haughtiness, rudeness, or insult.

    Hamilton is not usually considered a hero of liberty, despite his current popularity. But in this instance, perhaps he was.

  20. RE: Gary Johnson Says Alton Sterling’s Shooting Could Be “Murder”
    But the Libertarian presidential candidate fails to recall “egregious police shootings” while he was governor of New Mexico.

    Who is Gary Johnson to question a police officer murdering a citizen of this country?
    Doesn’t he know there are too many people on this planet and shooting them random is the best way to cull the herd?
    Doesn’t he know killing citizens is a time honored tradition in socialist states?
    Doesn’t he know police officers need to kill a few people every once in awhile in order to stay sharp in case there was a real reason for them to pull their guns?
    Doesn’t he know the police in this country are the ultimate judges?
    What’s wrong with this man?

  21. Gary Johnson has one thing in common with Trump – he doesn’t take advantage of major incidents that should buoy his campaign. He stands pat and does nothing.

    Really, how hard it is to say something like “I would look into reforming police union”. How about federal law that would mandate police officers to treat victims they shot? Instead he passed.

    His Twitter feed is devoid of any real content and thoughts of the candidate. Nothing about Clinton’s email scandal, police shootings, nothing. He’s just sort of content to be the “none of the above” candidate, it seems. He can’t afford to plateau now, he needs momentum.

  22. uptil I saw the receipt which was of $4452 , I accept …that…my mom in-law woz like truley bringing home money part time from their laptop. . there neighbour haz done this for only 9 months and resantly paid the loans on there condo and purchased a gorgeous Cadillac . go to this site …..

    CLICK THIS LINK=====>>

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.