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Albuquerque Police Shooting Again Draws Criticism

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Less than two weeks after federal officials rebuked the Albuquerque Police Department for a rash of unjustified officer-involved shootings, an officer fatally shot a 19-year-old woman suspected of stealing a vehicle before pointing a gun at police, authorities said.

Mary Hawkes became the first person to be killed by Albuquerque police since the Justice Department released a scathing report that called for a "systematic change" to address what it said was a long-ingrained culture of deadly force in the Police Department.

The woman was the foster daughter of a retired judge, Danny Hawkes, according to a friend of hers, local news media and the Associated Press. Authorities refused to confirm that late Tuesday but set a news conference for Wednesday morning. Danny Hawkes could not be reached for comment.

Police Chief Gorden Eden Jr. made a televised statement after Monday's shooting, saying the officer fired after Hawkes led police on a foot chase.

"The suspect stopped, turned and pointed a handgun at close range," Eden said.

On Tuesday afternoon, police identified Jeremy Dear as the officer involved. Dear has been with the department since November 2007 and is now on administrative leave.

According to court documents, Mary Hawkes had a criminal record, including shoplifting and drinking in public.

But two of her friends, sisters Isabel and Luchrisa Price, said Hawkes had a good heart. Isabel Price identified her as a foster daughter of the retired judge.

"She cared about people," Luchrisa Price said. "She would even get food and give it to the homeless. She was a wonderful person."

Hawkes studied welding at a community college and made whatever money she could selling knives and scissors door-to-door, but eventually became homeless, Luchrisa Price said. Hawkes shoplifted food to give to other homeless people, she said.

Luchrisa Price said she and Hawkes dated for about a year and remained friends after their romance ended. Hawkes' death hit her hard.

"I was pretty devastated," she said. "I never thought anything like this would happen to her. I think it's wrong."

She wasn't the only one. Hawkes' shooting sparked a protest, a candlelight vigil and several Facebook posts in her honor.

On Tuesday, Christy Chavez expressed her anger in a post on the "Albuquerque PD in Crisis" Facebook page.

"I went to the crime scene where Mary was killed by APD yesterday. Her blood still fresh on the wall," Chavez wrote. "This infuriates me to my core. We should not be living in fear of our civil servants! We also should not be discrediting Mary's life because she was a 'suspect, a thug, or a troubled teen.' Something has got to change!"

Monday's protest was only the latest in a series of demonstrations -- one of which turned violent last month -- targeting the Albuquerque Police Department. Since 2010, officers have shot 37 people, 23 of them fatally.

Hawkes is the third person in a little more than a month to be shot to death by Albuquerque police.

The federal recommendations came on the heels of a string of deadly officer-involved shootings, including the March 16 killing of a homeless and mentally ill man, James "Abba" Boyd, who was illegally camping in the Sandia Mountains. Boyd had been acting erratically, according to police, and got into an argument with officers before he was shot.

A video of that shooting surfaced last month, touching off protests and prompting calls for better police training, especially on how to deal with the mentally ill.

Friction between police and parts of the community, especially the poor and homeless, has been brewing for years, experts and community leaders have said.

Mayor Richard J. Berry declined to comment on the Hawkes shooting. However, he had called Boyd's death a "game changer" and introduced a raft of proposed "sweeping changes" to be implemented by the police chief.

Also, federal officials have said they plan to meet with city leaders, community members and police union officials, among others, to discuss the recommendations and come up with a plan of action.

Copyright 2014 - Los Angeles Times

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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