Friday, January 19, 2007

Victim's relative: Cop had lax penalty

By Michael Gisick, Abq Tribune
Friday, January 19, 2007

The granddaughter of the 74-year-old woman killed last year when an Albuquerque police officer lost control of his car and crashed says the officer's three-week suspension isn't nearly enough punishment.

"If he were a regular person, he would be charged with reckless driving or voluntary manslaughter," Denise Baker said. "Instead, in our eyes he gets a vacation while our family suffers every day."

Baker said she had been told the Bernalillo County District Attorney's Office would take the case before a grand jury in March to determine whether Zachariah Floyd, 23, broke any laws. She said the officer should be suspended until then.

District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said the case likely would be taken to grand jury, though she said she couldn't confirm when.

"Car accidents do happen, and there isn't always a crime involved," she said. "The issue here is whether any laws were broken."

Police confirmed this week that Floyd had been suspended over the incident and said the case had been forwarded to the District Attorney's Office for review.

A police investigation following the May 21 crash found that Floyd was speeding through a neighborhood as he responded to a domestic violence call.

He swerved to avoid another vehicle, then hit a brick wall at 5208 Crestview Place S.W. The impact killed Flora Aragon and injured her daughter and a family friend.

Baker said Police Chief Ray Schultz called her Wednesday and told her Floyd had been suspended for three weeks.

"He said that was the longest he could suspend him because of the union," she said.

Police spokesman John Walsh said department rules prohibit him from confirming the length of the suspension, saying only that it was "substantial."

He said Floyd would return to patrol duties following the suspension and would also be required to talk to cadet classes about his experience.