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‘We Have to be the Voice for Keshawn’: Family of New Mexico Man Files Lawsuit to Force City to Release Evidence Related to Fatal Shooting By Cops as He Reached for His Phone

The life of Keshawn Thomas, 27, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was cut short on Aug. 28, 2022, at a Valero gas station by three Albuquerque police officers after what was supposed to be a welfare check turned deadly.

Mounting questions remain more than two months after Thomas was killed and are the subject of a lawsuit filed by the family to compel police to reveal more details on why the 27-year-old was killed.

“He’s greatly missed,” said Najah Green, a cousin of Keshawn and who claims to have heard the fatal gunshots that killed the 27-year-old.

“It’s still a nightmare. He wasn’t the type of person to go out like that in 30 seconds,” said Keshawn’s mother, Laura Thomas, who is still struggling to accept her son is no longer with her.

Police fired 16 gunshots into Thomas, the Albuquerque Journal reported. The man’s final moments began when a 911 call from a gas station clerk asked for police to check on Thomas, who had been sitting for hours at a gas pump. A portion of the 911 call released during a news conference by APD depicts the clerk telling the dispatcher, “I don’t know if he’s OK, but I would say he’s been there for like four and a half hours now.”

When three APD officers arrived for the welfare check, they were very aggressive toward Thomas, using profanities according to Taylor Smith, an attorney hired by Thomas’ family.

Bodycam video shows the APD officers, identified as Marcos Flores, Kenneth Skeens and Dustin Ketchum, talking to Thomas who is seen sitting on a curb with a calm demeanor.

The officers then tell Thomas to call someone to come get him since the 27-year-old admitted having been drinking and appeared intoxicated. Thomas can be heard on bodycam video telling the officers his phone is in the passenger seat of the car.

He also tells the officers twice that he had a weapon in the trunk.

Smith says Thomas usually kept the gun in the trunk of the car and the bullets inside the passenger compartment of the car. Bodycam video shows Thomas handed one of the officers a loaded gun magazine before going to retrieve his phone inside his Dodge Challenger.

“Under regular officer procedures, they should have said, ‘Where’s your phone?’ We’ll grab it for you,” Smith said of the APD officers not following standard protocol.

Bodycam video shows what happens next as one of the APD officers allows Thomas to get his phone from the car. Thomas walks toward the opened driver’s-side door to retrieve his phone.

As Thomas leans towards the center console, one of the officers standing near the front driver’s side tire yells, “Gun! Gun!” and he and the other two officers unload a barrage of gunshot at Thomas.

“From the vantage point we saw from the lapel footage, I don’t know how the officers could have seen anything in his hand,” Smith questioned of the officer’s decision to fire.

At a Sept. 20 news conference, APD Police Chief Harold Medina, showed photos of the retrieved magazine clip and the gun, but without the full complement of bodycam video released, questions remain for the family.

“As I understand, there was no actual gun in the trunk, the officers did remove it from the seat of the car and placed it on top of the trunk and that’s what’s led to some of the misinformation that had been floating around,” Medina said during the news conference.

During that news conference, Medina went on to say the officers involved in Thomas’ shooting would soon return to full duty.

The Albuquerque Police Department has been under scrutiny for years ever since it was placed under a consent decree in 2015 where the Justice Department began monitoring the police department.

A federal investigation found APD has a ‘pattern or practice of use of excessive force’ after 20 people were killed in one year, so far in 2022, the police department has had eight incidents according to KOAT news.

Smith says since the shooting APD has not been transparent enough and so far, has only released a fraction of all the available bodycam video and has not released any documents related to the shooting. This is part of a lawsuit filed by the family under the inspection of public records act to compel police to release all available information.

“They’re not transparent with anything,” said David Thomas, Keshawn’s father, of the Albuquerque Police Department’s unwillingness to share all available information related to his son’s death at the hands of police.

“Our Supreme Court of New Mexico has held for many years now that ongoing investigations do not overcome the public’s need for answers for shootings like this.

Our Supreme Court has done a wonderful job in making sure the public has answers whether or not the law enforcement officers, or public agencies follow that is a different question,” Smith said.

Smith also says the family has given the city of Albuquerque notice of their intent to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Atlanta Black Star’s phone calls and emails went unanswered for days as we tried to get more information on Thomas’ shooting from APD.

In the days and weeks after Thomas’ passing, vigils and protests have occurred reflecting on the 27-year-old’s life and a call for transparency from the police.

“We have to be the voice for Keshawn, Keshawn is not here no more, and we’re not going to just sit back and let this ride,” a woman claiming to be Thomas’ cousin screamed into a megaphone during one of the vigils held at the Valero gas station where he was killed.

“Everyone had great things to say about him, he was always kind, courteous and willing to help others,” Smith said of Thomas.

Smith say once the City hands over all information related to Thomas’ death, willingly or court ordered, the family will take further steps with their wrongful death lawsuit.

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