Amelia Baca is still dead.
She was killed April 16, 2022, by Las Cruces Police Officer, Jared Cosper. He's back on duty since November, although not on patrol.
The city government has still not explained why Cosper is back on the job. The city has also never explained why the first video the city showed us was a propaganda piece edited to defend the officer - not to share the facts and seek the right course of action. Apparently Cosper's conduct was acceptable to city administration.
Prosecutors have still not ventured to say whether this killing was a crime.
If you've seen the video of the shooting, you have an opinion. The video is clear and vivid.
It shouldn't be that hard to watch the video and interviews of Cosper and the few witnesses, review his training, his file, LCPD practices, and the law, and decide whether or not to charge him with a crime.
The local task force finished its investigation June 21. Our DA said a decision "could take several days," then punted to the AG's Office on July 31.
Hector Balderas accomplished nothing.
Our new AG, Raul Torrez, I know slightly and respect. A recent District Attorney, he has ample expertise. I urge him to provide us some response to this very significant public question this month.
Cosper approaches the house, gun drawn. In his defense, he had reason to believe Sra. Baca, 76, was demented and might have threatened someone. She was a diminutive Mexican-American lady who spoke no English. As he arrives, he tells everyone to come outside. Her daughter and granddaughter emerge, not appearing frightened. The granddaughter urges Cosper to "be gentle with her."
Amelia Baca stands in the doorway. She's frightened or confused. Her left hand holds two knives, pointed downward. She never raises either or makes a threatening motion. Nor does she drop them. Cosper shouts and curses. She knows no English. Cosper attempts no Spanish. The other ladies are trying to explain something to him.
Ms. Baca does not rush toward him. She probably feels closer to Cosper than she looks on wide-angle video. He has ample room to step back. She seems to take a half-step into the doorway. He fires a shot into her chest.
If I seem to be arguing the prosecutor's case, I'm not. These are basic facts. What they mean legally is for the AG's Office to say, and then, perhaps, prove to a judge or jury. (If conviction appears even slightly more likely than acquittal, the prosecution should charge Cosper.)
I do believe that something went awfully wrong here. Whether or not Cosper's training, experience, and state of mind insulate him from criminal penalties, something is damned wrong. The problem could be LCPD hiring or training, the LCPD administration, Cosper himself, our collective state of mind, or all of these. We must identify and fix what's wrong.
Not making a clear public statement is a huge insult to Amelia Baca and her family. It's a huge insult to you and me, and to the male Hispanic lawyer who told me he'd be afraid to report anything to the police. The silence is delaying serious efforts at improvements. Not meaningfully addressing the disproportionate number of questionable killings by Las Cruces police is an insult to all officers and citizens, particularly citizens of color.
City and Attorney-General's Office: please stop insulting us. Honor Sra. Baca. Do your jobs.
This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: Amelia Baca and the authorities