Law­suit filed over crash in APD pur­suit

Po­lice of­fi­cer em­ployed PIT ma­neu­ver to stop flee­ing sus­pect

Albuquerque Journal - - METRO & NM - BY RYAN BOETEL JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER

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.

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