A felon from California has been charged with opening fire on Albuquerque police officers, severely wounding one officer and injuring three others after they responded to a robbery.
Officer Mario Verbeck remained in critical condition Friday after being shot in the neck just above his bulletproof vest. Officer James Eichel is recovering from a gunshot wound to the forearm, and Sgt. Sean Kenny was saved by his bulletproof vest when he was shot in the chest.
Officer Harry Gunderson was hit in the face by glass and fragments as he took cover behind a police vehicle during the gunfight that broke out Thursday morning on the city’s northeast side.
A criminal complaint identifies the suspect as James Ramirez, 27, of Los Angeles. He’s charged with three counts of aggravated battery against a police officer, armed robbery, possession of a firearm by a felon and resisting evading or obstructing an officer.
Ramirez, who was shot and injured, was recovering at an Albuquerque hospital. Court records show an attorney has not yet been appointed.
The shooting comes as Albuquerque deals with a record-setting year of deadly violence and mounting frustration among residents and law enforcement. The violence also has revived criticism of the state’s no-money bail system, ushered in by a statewide vote in 2016.
Police Chief Harold Medina said during a briefing Thursday that the community needs to voice its frustrations to ensure policymakers and the criminal justice system start making changes “to keep bad people in jail.”
According to the criminal complaint, a man told authorities he was robbed at gunpoint while walking down the street Thursday morning. Two men had taken his wallet, shoes, gold necklace and a PlayStation that was in his backpack. He later spotted the thieves and alerted police.
The men began running as Verbeck and Eichel approached. That’s when Ramirez fired at the officers, according to the criminal complaint. Both officers were hit but returned fire as the men fled.
“I later observed the officers’ on-body recording devices and observed the officers getting shot and bleeding profusely,” a detective wrote in the complaint.
Kenny and Gunderson arrived to find Ramirez hiding behind a vehicle near a coffee shop along a busy street. Gunderson told Ramirez to drop the gun and Ramirez fired at him. Gunderson was struck in his vest, and Kenny was hit by glass as he took cover.
The officers exchanged gunfire with Ramirez until he was struck and fell to the ground.
According to the criminal complaint, the second suspect has not been identified or apprehended.