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New Mexico Police Officers To Be Tried For Murder In Death Of Homeless Man

Officer Dominique Perez and former police Det. Keith Sandy will face charges of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death James Boyd, a judge ruled Tuesday.

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The two New Mexico police officers who fatally shot a 36-year-old homeless man in 2014 as he appeared to surrender after an hours-long standoff will face trial for second-degree murder, a judge ruled on Tuesday.

Pro Tem Judge Neil Candelaria found probable cause for Albuquerque police Officer Dominique Perez and former police Det. Keith Sandy to stand trial for second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter after the local district attorney asked the court to consider charges earlier this year, KRQE reported.

Prosecutors had brought an "open murder" charge against the two officers, allowing the court to consider whether enough evidence existed to support a trial on a variety of charges.

If convicted of second-degree murder, the two men face up to 15 years in prison.

The shooting took place March 2014 in the foothills outside Albuquerque. Boyd, a 38-year-old homeless man with schizophrenia, was camping when police found him with a knife. A standoff was captured on police helmet cameras, and the video appeared to show officers fatally shooting Boyd as he surrendered.

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Attorneys for the officers have said they vehemently disagree with the charges.

"As a police officer, Keith [Sandy] not only had the right, but the duty, to defend his fellow officer from a mentally unstable, violent man wielding two knives," Sandy's lawyer, Sam Bregman, said in a statement in January.

District Attorney Kari Brandenburg, on the other hand, argued that pursuing a preliminary hearing allowed the court — and the public — to hear all the evidence.

"We feel that it is in everybody's best interest to be informed as to the facts in this case," she said in a statement. "Our goal is to seek justice, and that is our only goal."

During the two-week hearing, a fellow officer said he credited Perez and Sandy with saving his life by killing Boyd, the Associated Press reported.

"I was in a helpless position ... trying to control my dog," K-9 Officer Scott Weimerskirch said as an attorney questioned him from a 4-foot-high platform to demonstrate Boyd's position on the hill above during the confrontation.

Special Prosecutor Randi McGinn, however, argued that Perez and Sandy were intent on attacking Boyd as part of the police department's "paramilitary response."

"They created the danger. It was not Mr. Boyd who came at them," McGinn said.

The shooting prompted heated protests and a review of the police department's use-of-force policies.

Claudia Koerner is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Claudia Koerner at claudia.koerner@buzzfeed.com.

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