ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An alleged robber and carjacker never pointed his gun at a police officer before the officer shot and wounded him, Albuquerque Police Chief Allen Banks said Thursday.
But Banks said the man, Joaquin Ortega, was armed, and police had already received emergency calls about shots being fired in two different areas.
Ortega, 34, was accused of confronting a man outside a muffler shop with a gun in an effort to get a ride. The man was retreating behind his vehicle when Officer Brian Pitzer arrived.
The officer told Ortega to show his hands, but the chief said he did not comply. An image from the officer’s lapel video shows Ortega running between two cars and at one point facing the officer with a gun in his right hand.
“The officer perceived a threat to himself and perceived a threat to the community so he took the actions he felt necessary at the time,” Banks said, detailing the events of Oct. 28 during a news conference.
Pitzer shot at Ortega eight times. The shooting was the third by the officer in 6 1/2 with the department.
The shooting happened two days after another man — armed with a rifle, handgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition — had a shootout with law enforcement while leading them on a chase through the city in a stolen police cruiser. That man, Christopher Chase, wounded four law enforcement officers and ended up dying.
The latest shooting also comes as the department is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for an escalation of police shootings and several high-profile cases of abuse. Since 2010, more than two dozen people have been shot by Albuquerque police, 19 fatally.
In the latest shooting, the victim of the intended carjacking, Jim Sutton, told the Albuquerque Journal that Pitzer shot at Ortega as he was running away. He said Ortega threw away his gun after the first two shots.
Banks said Ortega was also accused of robbing a woman and her 7-year-old granddaughter at gunpoint before the shooting.