ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A deputy who fired several fatal rounds at a driver who tried to flee in a stolen pickup truck feared for the safety of his colleagues as the suspect revved the engine after being cornered, authorities said Tuesday.
The account was among details released by Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales about the Nov. 17 shooting that resulted in the deaths of driver Isaac Padilla and passenger Martin Jim.
Two other men got out of the truck unharmed and were not charged following a night of reckless driving that spanned 20 miles.
It was the second deputy-involved shooting in the county in just a week. Overall, deputies in the state’s largest metro area have been involved in nine shootings in a four-month period, spurring criticism from civil rights groups and activists.
Gonzales reiterated during Tuesday’s news conference that each shooting is a separate event and investigations into such matters can take months. All such cases are forwarded to the district attorney’s office as part of the procedure.
The sheriff dug in his heels regarding the use of body cameras, saying he has never said he’s opposed to the technology but as yet no one has provided him with data showing the cameras make the community safer.
He pointed to the Albuquerque Police Department, which has invested millions of dollars in cameras while crime rates have climbed. He suggested that the money and time spent downloading footage cuts into the number of officers patrolling streets.
Such personnel problems have been exacerbated by the department’s inability to hire seasoned officers due to state limitations on retirement benefits, he said.
“There’s nothing showing me, as an elected public safety official, that this is working,” the sheriff said about body cameras, vowing he would not “water down our deputies’ ability to do their jobs by making them apprehensive like the Albuquerque Police Department officers are right now.”
Albuquerque police have been adopting reforms in the wake of a 2014 report by the U.S. Justice Department that faulted the agency for excessive force.
In the Bernalillo County case, a sheriff’s office helicopter spotted a truck that had been stolen in October and was believed to have been involved in a subsequent burglary. After numerous attempts, deputies got the truck to stop by using a spike belt and striking the rear of the vehicle to get it to spin out.
Surrounded by patrol cars, the driver ignored commands and revved the engine, authorities said. That’s when one deputy — identified as Joshua Mora, the son of Undersheriff Rudy Mora — fired at the driver seven times. The younger Mora has served on the force for 17 months.
Authorities say another man who got out of the vehicle before it was stopped by deputies was armed but no other weapons were found in the truck.
Padilla, 23, had a criminal history that included aggravated assault, battery, shoplifting and other charges.
Associated Press writer Russell Contreras contributed to this report.