Lawsuit filed over crash in APD pursuit
Police officer employed PIT maneuver to stop fleeing suspect
The children and brother of a man who was killed when he was struck by a recreational vehicle in a wild chase with Albuquerque police officers earlier this summer have filed a lawsuit against the city, saying the dangerous tactics police used violated their relative’s civil rights.
The suit says that police used a Pursuit Intervention Technique, or PIT maneuver, to stop the RV and it crashed into a vehicle driven by Tito Pacheco, 39, seriously injuring him. He later died.
A PIT maneuver is when an officer intentionally sideswipes a vehicle with the intent of stopping a chase. Albuquerque police policy says that only certain officers who have been trained on the tactic can perform it, and they must first get approval from a supervisor. The maneuver also shouldn’t be done on vehicles moving faster than 35 mph unless the situation calls for lethal force, according to police policy.
“To me, it’s outrageous. I don’t know what they could have been thinking to do a PIT maneuver on an RV in a busy intersection,” said Jason Bowles, an attorney for Pacheco’s family. “If you are going to direct something of that size into traffic, it’s not going to be a good outcome.”
Celina Espinoza, a police spokeswoman, said there is an ongoing “serious use of force” investigation into the chase. That means the police’s Critical Incident Review Team is examining the case and looking for policy violations and training opportunities.
The crash happened on June 20 when David Barber, 40, fled from police in an RV. Police were trying to arrest him on an 18-count warrant on charges that included aggravated burglary, tampering with evidence, multiple counts of larceny of a firearm and battery on a police officer.
The citywide chase started at the Balloon Fiesta Mobile Home Park on the 500 block of Tyler NE when officers surrounded the RV and Barber accelerated through a closed gate onto Edith. For more than an hour, police pursued the RV throughout the city, first just with the police helicopter and then with vehicles.
The lawsuit said there were crashes at Princeton and Girard, Wyoming and Burlison, Indian School and Washington, Marble and Louisiana and Candelaria and the Pan American Frontage Road.
Police on the night of the incident said that during the chase Barber at times followed traffic laws and at other times drove recklessly. At one point, Barber
nearly struck an Albuquerque police officer at the Target parking lot in Uptown.
“The helicopter could have monitored it until it stopped,” Bowles said. “There was no need to have an hour-plus chase through Albuquerque that caused all those accidents.”
Pacheco’s vehicle was struck when officers used a PIT maneuver to stop Barber and take him into custody near Coors and Irving on the West Side.
The father of three suffered three broken six ribs, an injured spleen, a punctured lung, spine injuries and a traumatic brain injury, according to the lawsuit.
“After three agonizing weeks ... Tito Pacheco passed away from his severe injuries,” the suit states.
Barber is in custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center on state charges. District Judge Brett Loveless ordered that he be detained until his state court charges go to trial. He has also been charged in federal court with being a felon in possession of a firearm.