Albuquerque, NM – The Office of Attorney General Hector Balderas on December 30, 2022, released findings from their independent investigation into the Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD) handling of a SWAT situation that led to the tragic death of 15-year-old Brett Rosenau. The investigation concluded Rosenau’s death was “avoidable” and APD and Bernalillo County Sherriff’s Office deputies had opportunities to use “non-lethal” interventions which would have prevented the fire that killed Rosenau.
“We are saddened but not surprised by the findings that came from the Attorney General’s office. Violence should be a last resort for law enforcement officers, but in this case and many recent others, tools to peacefully end police encounters have been passed over,” said ACLU of New Mexico Deputy Director Leon Howard.
On July 6, 2022, APD’s SWAT team executed an arrest warrant for 27-year-old Qiaunt Kelley in a Southeast Albuquerque residence Kelley was visiting. Over the course of the standoff, a number of tear gas canisters and rounds of powder-based chemicals were thrown into the home. The home caught on fire during the standoff. Kelley exited but Rosenau was found dead inside, as was a family dog.
Shortly after the incident came to light, the ACLU of New Mexico called for a transparent and thorough independent investigation into Rosenau’s death.
Howard said, “The findings in this report are exactly why we must have prompt, transparent and independent investigations of all APD incidents that end with the death of a community member. A thorough accounting of what happened is vital for both accountability for the victim and their family, and to improve the ongoing police work done by the department.
This incident highlights the great need for legislation requiring that robust de-escalation tactics be deployed before force is used. Too many families have lost their loved ones because law enforcement officers in our state defaulted to using deadly force before trying to de-escalate an encounter. Brett Rosenau was a 15-year-old child who had his whole life in front of him. His loved ones and our community deserve justice. The officers involved in his needless and heartbreaking death and a family’s loss of their home must be held accountable.”