By Tom O’Connell
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., June 1, 2016 – The mood matched the gloomy skies Tuesday afternoon at the Northeast Albuquerque home of Dennis Humphrey, a 58-year-old recent transplant to the Duke City who was shot dead by police in his garage over Memorial Day Weekend.
Family and friends were gathered in the driveway as the dead man’s son, also named Dennis, tinkered despondently with a boat and a pickup on the property.
Albuquerque Police Department officers answered 911 calls to the home alleging there was a drunk man with a gun on Saturday, May 28. The Albuquerque Journal reported that police shot Humphrey “after he pointed a ‘high powered weapon’ at officers.” Other media reports say cops were responding to a domestic violence situation.
Humphrey is survived by his disabled wife and a son, both of whom lived with him.
‘In Fear for His Life’
“He made numerous threats to use that weapon against officers,” the Journal quotes APD spokesman Simon Drobik as saying. “At that time, the officer’s in fear for his life. He took appropriate action to stop his action. Shots were fired.”
The Humphreys and a visiting friend and neighbor from across the street were still processing the recent death of the family patriarch, and weren’t ready to talk about the incident. Family spokeswoman Beverly Humphrey, the former daughter-in-law of Dennis Humphrey, referred us to the family’s attorney, Joe Kennedy.
But in their grief, the survivors did criticize media descriptions of the late Mr. Humphrey.
‘He Wasn’t a Monster’
The neighbor from across the street, who identified himself as a close friend of the deceased, took a pull from his bottle of Bud Lite and grimaced as he said he had a bone to pick with the local media over how they’ve negatively described Mr. Humphrey.
Dennis Jr. was quick to concur: “They portrayed him as a monster, and he wasn’t a monster.”
KRQE Commenter: ‘Pray for Paralysis’
As has become customary, many Burqueños ghoulishly celebrated APD’s killing of Humphrey in the comments sections of local news reports. KRQE readers used the opportunity to gloat about a fellow citizen’s death—swallowing the official narrative before any evidence has been presented, without a thought for the grief of Humphrey’s family and knowing nothing about the dead man’s character.
“All in a days work. Busy Sunday for the cops.”
“He pointed a gun at police. That’s a death sentence in ANY situation. A 5 year old could comprehend this.”
“No longer Dennis the menace.”
“He must be bitter that his dog died….his wife left….he has no friends…..and he smells bad.”
“Sounds justified to me. Good job.”
“Darn, it sounds like the perpetrator survived his wounds. Oh well, pray for paralysis.”
Commenter Claims Humphrey Unarmed, Hands Up When Shot
But one commenter over at the Albuquerque Journal website, Lisa Macklin, suggested in a post that Humphrey’s hands were in the air and his gun was on the ground when he was shot. She wrote that she was a close friend of Humphrey, that he was her “Blackfoot brother” and that she’d been looking forward to “smoking fish and building a sweat lodge” with him in Alaska. She said he had moved to Albuquerque to be near his grandchildren, and that he was “the best union sheet metal worker I have ever known.”
“His son told the cops to let him bring Dennis out but they sent his son to the end of the block and went in and shot him,” Macklin wrote. “The last thing his son saw was his dad with his hands in the air and the gun on the ground…. Dennis might have had a bit too much to drink on this holiday weekend but so [did] a lot of people around the country.”
Macklin did not respond to an interview request.
Attorney: Single Shooter Raises Concerns
The family’s attorney, Joe Kennedy, said he believes only one APD officer fired his gun, which could be a red flag.
“Only one officer discharged his weapon,” he said. “If there are a lot of officers there and only one discharges his weapon, then you have a question as to why only one officer fired.”
Kennedy said the Humphrey family’s main concern in reaching out to his firm was to get information, which can be all but impossible to ascertain after an officer-involved shooting.
“That’s typical of families in this sort of situation,” said Kennedy. “More than a lawsuit, they’re seeking information. They don’t look to APD for that information, because they won’t get it. So that’s what we’re doing, and we’ll give them information as we get it.”
Burque Media has submitted public records requests for the 911 recordings, lapel camera footage and the police report. Until the evidence sees the light of day, we won’t know exactly what happened in that garage on that cool spring night, how a grandpa who is said to have enjoyed a few cocktails on occasion wound up dead inside his own home.
Officers Given ‘Time to Decompress’ Before Talking
The APD officers at the scene had yet to be interviewed by the multiple agencies looking into the shooting as of Monday’s Journal report, according to the paper. That’s customary among police departments. But why?
“We want to do a good investigation, and give them time to decompress so we can get a good statement from them,” APD spokesman Drobik told the Journal.
But as anyone who has ever watched a police procedural knows, investigators always immediately separate and interview suspects. But police are allowed to “decompress”—or, as Kennedy suggests, they’re given ample time to talk amongst themselves.
“We’ve been critical of that,” said Kennedy. “Obviously in the past, it’s given them the opportunity to talk to each other and talk to their lawyers and get their story straight. And they use some sort of hokey science that says, well, the trauma of the event messes up their memory.”
Police Had ‘No Human Emotion’ in Killings
Kennedy’s firm specializes in APD misconduct and civil rights cases. So does he feel the Department of Justice reforms have had a positive effect on how APD conducts itself?
“We’ve been cautiously optimistic that they’ve improved,” he said. “We haven’t seen any evidence of it in their actual policies, procedures or training, but the shootings have decreased. We attribute that probably to better critical incident training, better situations dealing with the mentally ill. So we’ll be interested in seeing how [the Humphrey killing] unfolded and how they handled it.”
It’s been said by many a cop that the last thing an officer ever wants to do is pull the trigger because of the emotional and legal fallout that follows. But the numbers don’t back up that sentiment, with 418 citizens killed by police in the U.S. so far this year, according to the Guardian’s “The Counted” project.
“That’s how we felt at least two years ago, that [shooting people] was something they didn’t shy away from,” said Kennedy. “They had really no human emotion about it.”