ALBUQUERQUE (CN) – Parents say an Albuquerque police officer shot to death their unarmed, mentally disabled son, in his back, at his home – and that their son was the third unarmed man the officer had killed in seven years – two of them shot in the back.
The parents and brother of the late Alan Gomez sued Officer Sean Wallace, Police Chief Raymond Schultz and the City of Albuquerque for wrongful death and other charges.
They claim Wallace killed their son, who was holding a kitchen spoon that Wallace misidentified as a deadly weapon.
The family claims Albuquerque hired Wallace despite a very troubling record.
They claim that while working undercover for the New Mexico State Police in 2004, Wallace fatally shot Leo Lopez four times in the back, claiming that he “perceived that Mr. Lopez was trying to run him over.”
“After Mr. Lopez’s family sued defendant Wallace for the killing, the case settled for $234,000,” the complaint states.
It continues: “In 2007, defendant Wallace was investigated for billing the State of New Mexico for attending law enforcement classes that he himself was paid to teach.
“Defendant Wallace’s fraudulent billing cost the State of New Mexico thousands of dollars.
“Upon information and belief, defendant Wallace was informed by the State of New Mexico that he would be terminated from the State Police Department unless he left on his own terms.
“During the threat of termination from the New Mexico State Police Department defendant Wallace applied to APD. …
“Before hiring defendant Wallace, APD was aware that his career in law enforcement was marred by fraud and by excessive force claims, including deadly force.
“Nonetheless, in keeping with APD’s practice of ignoring its own hiring standards, defendants City of Albuquerque and Schultz hired defendant Wallace.”
On Jan. 29, 2010, Wallace killed his second unarmed man, Wayne Cordova, who “had been diagnosed with numerous mental conditions, including bipolar disorder,” the family says.
Cordova stole a car that day, and “When defendant Wallace shot him, Mr. Cordova was on a rooftop, crying and asking to be killed,” according to the complaint.
The family says that Cordova “was never armed on the rooftop.” It adds: “In keeping with its policy of non-accountability, APD failed to adequately reprimand, discipline, train or otherwise correct defendant Wallace’s conduct in shooting an unarmed man on a roof, and/or failed to communicate to defendant Wallace that the shooting of Mr. Cordova was undesirable or unacceptable.”
On May 10 this year, the family says, Wallace killed Alan Gomez by shooting him in the back.
The family says: “APD had been informed that Alan Gomez suffered from mental illness and that he did not want to let his brother and his brother’s girlfriend leave their home.
“No APD officer, including defendant Wallace, observed Alan Gomez, at any time, armed with a weapon or threatening APD officers or any other individuals.
“APD officer, including defendant Wallace, observed Alan Gomez repeatedly step outside the front door of the residence … and smoke a cigarette.
“After stepping outside again, unarmed, Alan Gomes turned around and re-entered the residence.
“After a steel screen door closed behind him, defendant Wallace shot Alan Gomez through the back, causing his death.
“Alan Gomez, at all material times, was unarmed.
“After Alan Gomez was shot, APD expressed hits belief that he had been holding a large kitchen spoon at the time he was shot, and that this spoon had been misidentified as a weapon.”
The family says Wallace “was in possession of alternative force, such as a bean bag gun, but chose to use deadly force against an unarmed man.”
The family seeks punitive damages for wrongful death, wrongful hiring and retention, negligent supervision, excessive force, and loss of consortium.
They are represented by Joseph Fine.