New Mexico police are investigating after video surfaced showing an officer pulling a gun on a motorcyclist performing stunts on an Albuquerque-area highway on Oct. 7.
The video shows a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) cruiser pull up in between a pair of bikers doing wheelies. An officer in the passenger seat is seen hanging out the window and pointing his firearm at one of the motorcyclists before the biker speeds away.
The bikers were with approximately 50 other bikers who were reported driving aggressively and blocking traffic. The actions resulted in 45 calls to 911, police say.
Local reports suggested the group of bikers had surrounded the patrol car and flashed gang signs prior to the incident captured on video.
BCSO released a statement after the video came to light.
“After receiving an overwhelming number of responses and messages from our community we would like to reassure citizens the incident clearly warrants further investigation,” the statement read.
During a press conference on Monday, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales confirmed the weapon pulled by the officer was a gun and the actions are considered “standard operating procedure.”
“We’d like everybody to know that driving a motorcycle on one tire is a traffic violation, and deputies are allowed to use a show of force, according to our standard operating policies,” he said.
Gonzales suggested the “show of force” may have been motivated by concerns the joy ride could have taken a more violent turn.
“We’re still trying to get information,” said Gonzales. “Everybody senses fear by different ways, and obviously, by some of the calls we received, if we got 45 people calling for us concerned about their safety, then it’s not for me to question.”
Gonzales refused to publicly condemn the actions of his officer, suggesting the 20 seconds captured on video does not tell the entirety of the confrontation.
“Try to understand that these things are sometimes more complicated than they realize, and we just need more information so we can give them a better understanding of what happened from the time it started, maybe to the time it ended,” Gonzales said.
The investigation is being conducted by an internal affairs unit within the sheriff’s department, which has biker groups concerned.
“We had hoped that the investigation into the deputies’ actions on that day would have been investigated by an outside agency to provide a non-biased review of not only the deputies’ actions but also the policy under which the deputies’ actions were guided,” a statement on the New Mexico Motorcyclist Rights Organization’s Facebook page read.
The group did condemn the “reckless” and “irresponsible” actions of the motorcyclists involved but said they would defend the rights of all New Mexico motorcyclists.
“We feel that the policy needs to be reviewed and deputies provided with a better understanding of how and when a “Show of Force” should not be applied and the impact actions such as those have on perception from the general public, as well as the organized riding community concerning our safety when being stopped by deputies,” the statement said.
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