ALBUQUERQUE, NM — An undercover detective was shot by a fellow officer during a botched sting operation designed net a couple of low-level drug offenders.
The embarrassing mishap shines yet another spotlight on a department already embroiled in controversy. Albuquerque Police Department has one of the highest police shooting rates in the country, and two APD officers were recently charged with murdering a homeless man who was trying to camp without a permit in the foothills.
* * * * *
STING OPERATION GONE WRONG
The latest controversial shooting took place at 11:40 a.m. on Friday, January 9th, 2015.
Two undercover APD officers — now identified as Detective Holly Garcia and Detective Jacob Grant — were in the process of staging a $60 drug transaction with two male suspects. Driving a black Lexus, the two narcs picked up the two male suspects near a park off East Central.
Ms. Garcia had previously arranged to set up suspect Damien Bailey with some “shards” (slang for methamphetamines). With Mr. Bailey in the front passenger seat and Officer Grant and suspect Edmond Vester in the back seat, she drove to a nearby Econo Lodge, where the deal was completed. Mr. Vester was allegedly the one who entered the motel room and returned to the car with the drugs.
Unbeknownst to the suspects, the vehicle was being followed by additional police officers from the Special Investigations Division, driving multiple unmarked trucks. The team was waiting for Ms. Garcia to give them a secret signal to move in.
Garcia drove the car to a nearby McDonald’s restaurant parking lot, where she “was given a quantity of a glass shard-like substance which she presumed to be meth,” according to the complaint.
“During that time, a predetermined arrest signal was administered and related to assisting detectives,” the complaint continued. “Both individuals were taken into custody at the scene and transported to the Foothills Substation before being subsequently booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center without injury or incident.”
The document curiously omits the most significant part of the event — the part where the Special Investigations Division swooped in and shot one of the undercover detectives.
“I THOUGHT MAYBE MCDONALD’S WAS GETTING ROBBED”
Police are remaining secretive about the exact circumstances that led to the gunfire. The criminal complaint against Vester and Bailey is vague and makes no mention of the suspects possessing a weapon at the scene.
However, several witnesses saw the events unfold, and said that masked men resembling robbers swarmed the scene and later and confiscated eyewitness video. KRQE News 13 reports:
“We just saw unmarked vehicles pull up — these Ram trucks or whatever — and surrounded this vehicle so it couldn’t back up and escape,” Wallace Anderson, who saw most of the incident unfold, told News 13. “And then at that point, the shots happened, and the guy was dragged to the pavement and handcuffed.”
Destiney Jackson had a different vantage point from her motel room at the Econo Lodge.
“I heard yelling, and I looked out the window and just seen a bunch of guys with masks on,” Jackson said. “I thought maybe McDonald’s was getting robbed or something. I didn’t know what was going on.”
Her brother, Tyler Jackson, captured a video recording of the drug-bust-gone-haywire with his tablet. He said the police took the recording.
KRQE News identified the shooter as APD Lt. Greg Brachle. He was reportedly wearing plainclothes at the time of the confrontation.
Reports indicate that Detective Jacob Grant was shot three times in the torso, and remains in critical condition following multiple surgeries. He is a 10-year-veteran of APD. Detective Garcia was wounded by shrapnel.
A spokesman for APD said things went south when the suspects abruptly changed the location of the deal and that Detective Grant had to reveal himself as an officer while in the car with the suspects. Officials have not stated what exactly caused that to happen.
VIOLENCE OF THE DRUG WAR
Detective Grant is not the first innocent person to be shot by police as a result of the cruel and unjust War on Drugs, and he is unlikely to be the last. The fact that even known undercover agents can be shot during orchestrated drug stings is a demonstration of the incredibly needless danger to which the public is exposed during each and every drug raid.
This violent episode took place during lunchtime at a busy restaurant frequented by families. A stray bullet could have easily struck a [different] innocent bystander, uninvolved with the operation. Yet, operations like this in public spaces are considered routine.
It is time for Americans to ask which is worse: the prospect of people getting high, or the needless blood that flows because of America’s obsession with substance prohibition and controlling victimless behavior.