LAS CRUCES – A city police officer who approached the home of Amelia Baca orders her to drop the large kitchen knives she’s holding in her hands 16 times in 40 seconds. On the last request, Baca takes a step toward the officer and he shoots twice, killing her.
Baca, 75, experienced a form of dementia, according to a family member who called 911. Baca spoke only Spanish, her granddaughter later told investigators. The officer who shot Baca spoke to her in English.
The dramatic shooting is captured on the body camera of the police officer who shot Baca inside her home on the 800 block of Fir Avenue the evening of April 16, the day before Easter.
The Las Cruces police officer’s identity has not been made public.
The City of Las Cruces released the 11-minute body camera footage on Tuesday as part of a public records request. The city on April 22 produced a narrative video that included portions of a 911 call and still images from the body camera, but left many questions unanswered.
The full video is blurred by LCPD as part of the redaction of a public record. The city said that it was redacted because the officer is accused but not charged with a crime.
‘Please be very careful with her’
The body camera footage begins with the officer driving his unit, parking and then approaching the house. As he nears the front door, the officer motions for two women — Baca’s daughter and grandmother — to leave the house.
The granddaughter, Albitar Inoh, tells the officer, “Please be very careful with her,” as she passes by him.
According to a police-produced narrative video, another of Baca’s daughters was inside the home and called 911. The narrative includes portions of the 911 call.
“I really need an officer or an ambulance or someone because my mother is getting really aggressive,” the daughter who was inside the home said. “I’m hiding in a room because she’s threatening to kill me.”
The daughter advised the dispatcher that her 75-year-old mom suffers from dementia. Later in the call, the daughter said her mom has a knife. When the dispatcher asked what Baca was doing with the knife, the daughter said Baca was “stabbing the floor.”
In the narrative, the police said the daughter said she was hiding in a bedroom with her husband and a child and that another daughter was in the home.
It’s unclear what information from the 911 call the officer had as he approached the home.
‘Drop the knives’
Almost immediately after Inoh and her mother pass the officer, he pulls his gun and points it at Baca, who is standing just inside the doorway to the home. She is holding a large kitchen knife in each hand.
The officer yells, “set it down” twice, then “drop the knives” nine times, then “put them on the ground” twice and “put it down” three times before shooting. In five of those instances, the officer adds an expletive.
Inoh and her mother — who are flanking the officer to his right — can be heard trying to communicate with Baca and the officer about her mental illness. The officer tells the women to his side repeatedly to “back up.” His gun remains pointed at Baca, who responds to the officer in Spanish.
More:‘Don’t shoot her, she’s mentally ill.’ Recently released videos shed light on Amelia Baca killing
Baca moves both knives to her right hand at one point and then takes a step back. She takes at least one step forward before the officer shoots twice. LCPD blurred the video the moment the officer fires twice.
She falls to the floor and her daughter and granddaughter can be heard screaming.
Clearing the home
As Baca lay crumpled on the floor, the officer first checks the location of the knives and then directs another officer on scene to “pull her out.” The second officer can be seen dragging Baca from the doorway onto the patio while the first officer says, “keep her away from that knife.”
The police officers then go room to room inside the house. A girl hiding inside a bedroom is escorted outside.
After the first officer clears the house, he exits a back door and walks around to the front of the house where Inoh and her mother are talking to the police.
Inoh sees the officer approach and walks to him, yelling, “Did you shoot my mom? Did you shoot my mom? Did you shoot my grandma?” The officer does not acknowledge Inoh and returns to his unit.
The police-produced narrative video states that the officer who killed Baca has been on the force for nine years. The voiceover said that the officer has 70 hours of crisis intervention training.
The incident has drawn the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is calling for an investigation into how LCPD responds to crises.
More:Delay in official info about Amelia Baca’s killing raises transparency questions
The Doña Ana County Officer-Involved Incident Task Force — made up of the New Mexico State Police, the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office, the New Mexico State University Police Department, and the Las Cruces Police Department — is investigating the incident and the results of their investigation will be turned over to the 3rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office. LCPD Det. Kenny Davis is leading the investigation, according to one of the released videos.
Justin Garcia is a public safety reporter for the Las Cruces Sun-News. He can be reached at JE [email protected]. Lucas Peerman is the news director of the Las Cruces Sun-News. He can be reached at [email protected] or @LittleGuyInATie on Twitter.
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