ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The Bernalillo County District Attorney says APD officer Pablo Padilla committed a felony when he kneed a UNM law student in the groin last April.
The district attorney filed charges in state District Court on Tuesday, alleging Padilla committed aggravated battery with great bodily harm when he kicked Jeremy Martin hard enough to rupture one of his testicles. The DA also charged Padilla with another felony, tampering with evidence, for allegedly deleting video of the incident from a cellphone.
Body camera and cellphone video captured Martin screaming in agony and cursing at Padilla as the on-duty officer kicked him during a traffic stop. APD said Martin refused to sit on a curb, defying Padilla’s commands.
Sam Bregman, who represents Jeremy Martin in a civil suit against the city, said his client is committed to seeing Padilla held responsible. “This is a bad cop,” Bregman told KRQE News 13 in an interview Wednesday, “and he shouldn’t be on the streets.”
Padilla’s attorney, Erlinda Johnson, said Martin escalated the situation by refusing to sit down. She said Padilla was doing what he was trained to do.
“Basically, you’re supposed to aim for a major leg muscle so the individual doesn’t resist,” she said. “Unfortunately, he missed, and he ended up striking Mr. Martin in the groin area.”
Johnson said Padilla exercised “poor judgement” by deleting video of the incident from Martin’s passenger’s cellphone, but says it wasn’t tampering with evidence. “You wouldn’t have a lapel camera video in that case,” she said.
The district attorney’s office filed the charges by information. That practice is common in many parts of New Mexico, but rare in Bernalillo County. The process is authorized under New Mexico law and allows prosecutors to charge suspects without obtaining an indictment in a secret grand jury proceeding. A state District Court judge will conduct a hearing to determine if there’s enough evidence to take Pablo Padilla’s case to trial.
District Attorney Kari Brandenburg used the process of filing charges by criminal information when she charged former APD officer Keith Sandy and current APD officer Dominique Perez with an open count of murder in the shooting death of homeless camper James Boyd.
The charges filed against Padilla came on the same day that Brandenburg sent a letter to APD chief Gorden Eden asking why his department was taking so long to forward use-of-force cases to her office.
APD didn’t formally respond to her request, but the department posted photos of three large binders to its official Twitter account Tuesday night, saying its cases must be “investigated, compiled and thoroughly reviewed” before Brandenburg’s office gets them.
The spat is the latest episode in what has become a fractious relationship between Brandenburg, APD’s top brass and their bosses at City Hall.
The charges against Sandy and Perez were the first filed by Brandenburg for a police shooting. It was the also the first time in recent memory that an Albuquerque police officer had been criminally charged in a line-of-duty shooting.
Shortly after Brandenburg filed those charges, APD moved to ban the district attorney’s office from police shooting investigations, despite the fact that the two agencies had signed on to a memorandum of agreement that laid out how such investigations were to be conducted.
In addition, the department’s own standard operating procedures reference the district attorney’s involvement in shooting investigations — and sets out penalties for officers who violate that procedure. APD refused to comment on the matter to KRQE News 13.
The decision to charge officers in the Boyd case came after APD announced it had forwarded to the state Attorney General an investigation into Brandenburg’s handling of burglary cases involving her son. Investigators say Brandenburg contacted victims and offered to pay for stolen items, possibly with the hope of tamping down their willingness to press charges.
The district attorney maintains that investigation was forwarded to state prosecutors only after she’d informed people at APD that she would likely file charges in the Boyd shooting.
The New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board revoked Padilla’s certification in December. At that meeting, though, Padilla requested a formal hearing. That hearing began the appeals process and Padilla’s law enforcement certification remains in place until finalized by either the hearing officer or, if Padilla appeals that decision, a state District Court judge.
Indeed, Padilla still works for the city as a police officer. The department said Tuesday afternoon that he served a six-week suspension last fall for the incident with Jeremy Martin. When he returned to work, a spokeswoman said, Padilla was taken off the street and placed on desk duty.
The department said Padilla is now on administrative leave, being paid but not allowed to report to work while he appeals the revocation of his law enforcement certification and fights the charges filed Tuesday by the district attorney.
When asked by KRQE News 13 whether Padilla had previously been disciplined at APD, a spokeswoman refused to make Padilla’s record immediately available. The department’s written policy is that the public should be able to view disciplinary actions against every officer upon request.