Las Cruces, NM — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico is calling for an investigation after police shot and killed a 75-year-old woman in her home during a dementia-driven episode.
As we reported last month, Amelia Baca, 75, was killed by an officer with the Las Cruces Police Department on April 16, according to family members. The department took several days to release her name, however, her family confirmed with the Las Cruces Sun News that it was Baca who was killed.
This week, the officer's body camera footage was released showing just how senseless and unnecessary Baca's death was. If a cop cannot stop a 75-year-old grandma holding a kitchen knife without executing her, he has no business wearing a badge.
According to her family, Baca suffered from dementia and was having an episode that day. When police arrived on the scene, Baca was holding two kitchen knives and the officer waited less than a minute before he resorted to deadly force.
"On arrival, an LCPD police officer encountered a female who was armed with at least one knife. The incident resulted in the officer firing at least one round at the female," a news release stated.
As the body camera footage shows, Baca was not attempting to stab the officer, was not slashing the knives and she had put both knives in one hand before he killed her, reducing the threat that much more.
An elderly grandmother holding two large kitchen knives in one hand is hardly a threat, yet the Las Cruces officer chose deadly force over his taser, baton, or even pepper spray — all of which would've stopped this woman in her tracks.
Even if she was lunging at him or attempting to stab him, she is a 75-year-old grandmother going up against an officer with a taser, a baton, pepper spray and a bullet proof vest. The idea of using deadly force against such a person is reprehensible.
As the video shows, the officer yelled repeatedly at Baca to "drop the f**king knives!" but Baca did not speak or understand English, according to her granddaughter.
"Don't shoot her, please. She's mentally ill," Baca's granddaughter told the officer. But he didn't listen. Her granddaughter even offered to get in front of her grandmother to protect the officer from the elderly woman, but she was not allowed.
"I don't even know how many times I yelled at him, 'don't shoot her she's mentally ill'," the granddaughter told an LCPD detective during a recorded interview after the killing.
Instead of simply backing up and waiting or using his taser, the officer yelled several more times before firing two shots, killing her grandma.
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The ACLU said a crisis intervention team should have responded to the incident. Senior Policy Strategist Barron Jones said LCPD has a crisis intervention team meant to prevent these types of incidents, according to Sun News, but unfortunately, they were not deployed.
"If this team had been deployed to de-escalate the situation, (Baca) may still be alive today and receiving the help she needed," Jones said.
Jones told the Sun that police in New Mexico have been on a seeming killing spree and demanded a "comprehensive statewide use of force policy reform and increased oversight to ensure the public can rely on police following protective protocols already in place.
"Our communities will not be safe until police officers are held accountable to a clear and uniform standard," he said.
“It’s like we lost a leader," said her grandson, Michael Gutierrez. "She was the top of everybody and now we just have to carry on and stay strong.”
“I always imagined it was going to be old age," he said. "She lived this long. She went through so many things and survived, so what happened was not even in our minds."
According to KFOX 14, the Dona Ana County Officer-Involved Incident Task Force made up of the New Mexico State Police, the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office, the New Mexico State University Police Department, and the Las Cruces Police Department are investigating the incident.
Below is a video of a coward who has no business possessing a badge or a gun.
Because police officers have a tendency of attacking and abusing those with mental disabilities, including the elderly, the Alzheimer's Association of America puts out a guide, specifically designed for law enforcement on how to deal with people suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia.
According to the guide, those suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia will not respond like mentally healthy individuals. "Confronting the person is not recommended."
Frail, non-violent elderly women with dementia would likely be the easiest folks to deal with in these situations and it would be very easy to follow the above recommendations to the letter. Unfortunately, that doesn't appear to be the case in Las Cruces.