New Mexico Police Deny Claims Over Damaged Home


Albuquerque, N.M., police released a video Saturday that disputes an attorney’s claim that authorities prevented a resident from re-entering a home damaged during a SWAT standoff with her grandson.

A video, recorded from a detective’s lapel camera the day after the SWAT standoff, shows officers meeting with resident Rachel Hernandez and home owner Kathy Wujick, and allowing them to place a lock on a door so only they could enter while it was boarded up. The officers also gave both women advice on how to avoid the smell of tear gas after entering the home during cleanup.

The family of an Albuquerque man who killed himself after a shootout with police has been given 30 days to repair extensive damage to the home in the city’s South Valley neighborhood.

Kari Morrissey, the family’s attorney, has said the city’s demands on fixing the home following the standoff seemed disrespectful because the family was unable to enter the home.

The city sent a letter to 20-year-old Santiago Chavez’s grandmother the day after the June standoff, saying she needed to replace the windows and doors, reconnect the power and repair stucco damage or a lien would be filed against the property.

An inspection of the home this week by city officials revealed all three doors had been pulled off and replaced with boards, every window was broken out, dozens of large holes appeared on the interior and exterior walls, and the home still reeked of tear gas. City officials said it’s not uncommon to require property owners to repair homes and get them up to code after standoffs with authorities.

“It’s standard operating procedure,” said Rob Perry, chief administrative officer for the city. “I don’t think that taxpayers should have to foot the bill after someone barricades himself in a home for 15 hours, threatens the community and puts officers’ lives a risk.”

Police said Chavez took his own life after a 15-hour standoff with police following reports he was tossing large rocks at motorists. Police later revealed that Chavez and a SWAT officer exchanged gunfire but no one was struck in that exchange. Authorities sent tear gas into the home in an attempt to get Chavez but he remained inside until he killed himself, police said.

Morrissey said many questions remained about the SWAT call and the aftermath.

“The citizens of this community deserve some more respect from their civil servants than to destroy a home like this. And then in addition to that, give the homeowners 30 days to clean it up without being able to enter,” Morrissey told the Albuquerque Journal in its Friday edition. “As usual, (the Albuquerque Police Department’s) behavior seems to be unreasonable and at times certainly disrespectful.”

But Perry said the video released Saturday showed that Albuquerque police went out of their way to assist Hernandez and Wujick, even offered suggestions on clean up. “It shows textbook handling of the situation,” Perry said. “The officers accommodated them to allow access to the door. This basically refutes (Morrissey’s) allegations.”

Morrissey did not immediately return a phone message left at her law office.

The dispute comes while Albuquerque police faces criticism from activists over 24 officer-involved shootings – 17 fatal _-since 2010. Since then, the department has instituted a number of changes including requiring officers to wear lapel cameras and requiring a multi-agency review of all officer-involved shootings.

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