ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Albuquerque police officer shot at a suspected carjacker eight times as the man backed away then turned and ran to escape, newly released police video shows.
The footage released Monday calls into question a previous police account of the incident contained in a criminal complaint. It says witnesses told police that suspect Joaquin Ortega threatened Officer Brian Pitzer with a handgun and was shot as he turned toward the officer.
Ortega is not seen holding a gun in the video taken by Pitzer’s lapel camera. However, police said a handgun was found between two cars along the route where Ortega fled.
The video was released by the Albuquerque Police Department as it faces a U.S. Justice Department investigation over several high-profile abuse cases and three dozen shootings since 2010.
It was sought months ago by media outlets in public information requests concerning the wounding of the 34-year-old Ortega in the October 2013 chase.
Police spokeswoman Tasia Martinez did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment about the video.
The shooting was Pitzer’s third in six and a-half years with the department, authorities said.
The footage shows Pitzer arriving at a muffler shop after getting a report that a woman and her 7-year-old grandson had been robbed of $15 at gunpoint by a man who then tried to carjack a truck. The video shows Pitzer spotting Ortega, drawing his gun and yelling, “Let’s see your hands now! Let’s see your hands now, dude!”
As Pitzer approaches, Ortega is shown running between the two cars as Pitzer fires his weapon. Ortega keeps running and Pitzer shoots again. Ortega is seen stopping and falling on a sidewalk.
It’s not clear how many times Ortega was shot. He has pleaded not guilty to a number of charges, including aggravated assault on a police officer.
Reporters requested the video after then-Interim Police Chief Allen Banks displayed a still image from the lapel camera that he said showed that Ortega turned toward the officer with a gun.
Banks had refused to release the footage and told reporters he wasn’t going to try the case in the media.
The department recently hired a new police chief, former New Mexico Public Safety Secretary Gorden Eden, who has vowed to review the department’s policies and leadership structure.
On Monday, Albuquerque city councilors passed a resolution opposing the planned filming of the reality show “Cops” around the city over fears it would further tarnish the city’s image. The resolution asked Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston to reconsider his recent decision to allow the Spike TV show to film deputies in April.
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