ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Police union officials say it’s time to “take back our city” and show support for Albuquerque police officers by flying blue and white ribbons.
“Put them on your homes. Put them on light poles. Put them everywhere,” vice president Shaun Willoughby of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association said during a news conference Thursday.
“You know who really needs to see these bows? The men and women that are grieving today and are out there taking calls for service.”
Albuquerque Police Officers Association officials appealed for community support as they said criminal activity that has been trending upward reached a tipping point this week with the slaying of a 4-year-old girl in a road rage incident on Tuesday and the shooting of an officer during a traffic stop on Wednesday night.
They pleaded for people to support police and stand against violence.
“It’s been kind of a tragic week for the city of Albuquerque,” Willoughby said. “We had guardians actively hunting a violent criminal who brutally murdered an innocent child, and hours later one of our guardians was brutally assaulted and almost murdered, just for doing his job, by another violent criminal.”
APOA President Stephanie Lopez said, “We are trying to move forward. … Not just the officers, but the community.”
Beginning Tuesday afternoon, Albuquerque police investigated and made an arrest in the case of 4-year-old Lilly Garcia, who was shot and killed in a road rage incident on the West Side. And on Wednesday night, APD officer Daniel Webster was shot during a traffic stop on the other side of the city. He remained in critical condition Thursday at University of New Mexico Hospital.
In addition to this week’s shootings, Willoughby said crime was already increasing in Albuquerque. The total number of crimes increased 1.5 percent between 2013 and 2014, according to FBI statistics.
During a news conference at the police union, Willoughby rattled off a long list of cases this year in which officers, teenagers and homeowners were shot, then launched a campaign the union is calling: “We are Albuquerque, let’s take our city back.”
Albuquerque police Chief Gorden Eden, during a press conference at UNM Hospital, talked about specific state laws that he thinks are needed to prevent crime – mandatory minimums for violent offenders and stiffer prison enhancements for felons who possess firearms and gang members.
“If we had a criminal justice system that wasn’t turnstyle justice, we would not have a dead four year old. We would not have an officer struggling to take every single breath. I think it speaks to the systematic failure of legislature and the systemic failure of the court system,” he said. “As a community, as you have risen up the last 48 hours to support the family of Lilly, to support this officer and what his family is going through, we need to rise up equally and have our voices heard in Santa Fe. It’s time we fix our laws.”
Willoughby asked people to wear or dress their homes with blue and white ribbons to show support for police and a commitment against crime. The ribbons are available at the police union headquarters on Hawkins Street, and people are also encouraged to make their own.
Faced with court-enforceable police reforms, public scrutiny, an officer shortage, increasing numbers of crimes and two fellow officers facing murder charges for an on-duty shooting, Webster’s shooting was yet another blow to a weary police department, he said.
“Their morale is in the dumps, and we are asking you to show them that you support them,” Willoughby said. “How wonderful would it be for this officer to heal from these wounds and exit the hospital and see these bows everywhere in the city of Albuquerque? How important would that be for the rank and file of our police department? How important would that be for our community to start healing and helping each other to rid our city of the violence that has just been destructive to our community in the last year?”
Union officials set up an account for the Webster family at any Wells Fargo branch.
Eden said the community had banded together to support Webster. The city purchased plane tickets to fly in his family from out of state, and hotels and businesses have donated rooms and food for them. Cards and flowers have poured into police substations.
Jacob Grant, an officer who was shot in the line of duty by a fellow officer this year and is suing Albuquerque and its police department, was at the hospital Thursday to talk to police officials about things that helped him recover.
Formerly a detective, Lopez said Webster had only recently returned to the Field Service Bureau to patrol the streets because of a shortage of police officers in the city. He was midway through his swing shift when he was shot by Davon Lymon.
She said Webster was a board member of the APOA, representing the southeast area command. He was a popular and well respected officer, since he was voted to the union position by other rank and file police officers.
“He’s as strong as any man I’ve ever known,” she said.