Abuse of Authority

Family of man gunned down by police wins $6 million in court

ALBUQUERQUE, NM–The family of Christopher Torres has received some long-awaited vindication in the 2011 death of their son. Torres, who suffered from schizophrenia, was shot and killed by police in his own backyard.

According to an eye-witness, the officers were wearing civilian clothes and were beating Torres while threatening to shoot him. The neighbor thought Torres was being robbed and called 911. Strangely, she was never interviewed by the Albuquerque Police Department.

The two officers involved claimed that they feared for their lives after Torres grabbed one of their guns, and that they shot him three times in the back in self-defense. This claim is not supported by the eyewitness, and Torres’ fingerprints were not found on the gun.

Despite clear evidence suggesting foul play, officers CJ Brown and Richard Higler had no charges filed against them by District Attorney Kari Brandenburg. “It’s almost impossible to prosecute a police officer in an officer-involved shooting if he fears and if there’s any evidence that supports he fears his life,” Brandenburg stated to KRQE last February.

Torres’ parents were extremely disappointed by Brandenburg’s decision, and vowed to continue their civil lawsuits against APD in civil and federal court.

Now, nearly three years after the incident, the Torres family finally feels that some justice has been served. District court judge Shannon Bacon dismissed Brandenburg’s findings and put the blame on the officers rather than the victim for the events that transpired. “The unnecessary escalation of events by Detectives Brown and Hilger and their own aggressive acts at the Torres home created the unnecessarily dangerous situation in which Christopher Torres was shot to death,” Bacon wrote.

The family was awarded $6 million, but father Stephen Torres said it was never about the money. “It was about setting the record straight.” If Torres truly feels that way, he should probably give the New Mexico taxpayers their money back. Officers rarely get punished or fired for wrongfully killing people, while the taxpayers are forced to provide reparations to the families of those slain. As long as the police continue to protect their own from persecution, suits like this will continue to occur.

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