The city of Albuquerque has reached a $5 million settlement with the family of Mary Hawkes, a 19-year-old woman who was shot and killed by police during a foot chase in 2014.
The settlement resolves the lawsuit filed by her family against both the city and then-officer Jeremy Dear, and concludes a case that was controversial from the start.
Hawkes was killed just days after the Department of Justice announced the city’s police department had a pattern of using excessive – and deadly – force, and the Hawkes family alleged that the police department’s “structural and systemic deficiencies” led to her killing.
Shannon Kennedy, the family’s attorney, confirmed Wednesday that the case had settled, though documents have not yet been finalized or filed with the court.
Gilbert Gallegos, APD spokesman, said that the city “reached a preliminary settlement agreement of $5 million to settle all claims related to the Hawkes case.” Gallegos said the city was glad to see a resolution to the longstanding claim.
Dear’s attorney, David Roman, did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement, the Hawkes family said the shooting left them to wonder whether they could have done anything to save their daughter and sister.
“The family is very grateful that the city also recognizes that burden and is moving forward in the same spirit of accountability,” the statement said. “In the Hawkes family’s quest for answers about Dear’s killing of Mary on April 21, 2014, they have sought the truth and to ensure no family suffer a similar loss.”
They said they are confident that the new administration will work to improve APD’s culture in order to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
“To facilitate overdue change, the Hawkes are committed to donating a significant percentage of the settlement to organizations that prioritize crisis intervention training for law enforcement and that support the transition of foster children into adulthood,” the statement said. Organizations that they plan to donate to include El Ranchito de Los Ninos, Casa Hermosa, All Faiths Advocacy Center and the Crisis Intervention Team.
Dear has said he fired his gun after Hawkes pointed a gun at him while he was chasing her through Southeast Albuquerque, but his lapel camera was unplugged during the encounter and did not record. Dear fired five times, hitting Hawkes with three rounds.
The Hawkes family argued in their lawsuit that scientific evidence did not support Dear’s version of events. The bullet trajectories, they said, showed the “impossibility of his account” and Hawkes’ fingerprints and DNA were not present on the gun found at the scene.
City officials, the family alleged, “readily accepted former Officer Dear’s wholly implausible explanation of the killing, leaving only the bereft Hawkes family to search for the truth.”
The settlement comes months after 2nd Judicial District Judge Nan Nash granted the family’s request seeking sanctions against the city for failing to preserve vital evidence surrounding the shooting. Nash also said the jury would be instructed that the shooting was unreasonable as a matter of law.
Dear was fired from APD in December 2014 for failing to follow orders to video record all citizen interactions. APD says he was ordered to do so after the department received several citizen complaints about him. Last week, a judge ruled that Dear would not get his job with APD back, finding that termination was appropriate because Dear had been insubordinate.
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