A police officer in Las Cruces, New Mexico, has been charged with voluntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a Black man at a gas station last August.
Attorney General Raúl Torrez announced the charges against Brad Lunsford, a Las Cruces Police officer, Tuesday at the conclusion of a use-of-force investigation.
Torrez further accused the Doña Ana County district attorney of obstructing the state’s investigation into the incident and refusing to turn over key videos and images.
“Unfortunately, we were not provided with a complete investigative file containing all of the videos and images that would be necessary to evaluate this case,” he said.
Lunsford was the first officer on scene the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 2, 2022, after a Chevron gas station attendant called 911 to report a man named Presley Eze had left the station with a beer can he hadn’t paid for.
Lunsford and another officer confronted Eze and “forcibly removed” the unarmed, shirtless man from his vehicle after they could not verify his identity, according to a press release from the attorney general’s office.
Amid an ensuing scuffle, Eze and one of the responding officers ended up on the ground.
The attorney general said Eze then “placed his hand on the second officer’s taser” ― though it was not deployed or pointed at anyone ― at which point Lunsford drew his gun and shot Eze in the back left side of his head at point-blank range.
“The killing of Presley Eze is a tragedy and serves as yet another example of poor police tactics resulting in an unjustifiable use of force to subdue an individual resisting arrest for the commission of a minor crime,” Torrez said in a release. “As New Mexico’s chief law enforcement officer, I have a duty to hold everyone accountable for violations of the law and that includes police officers who cross the line.”
In response to a separate lawsuit in May accusing Las Cruces of covering up the incident, an attorney representing the city claimed Eze, a nurse, presented an “armed and dangerous threat” and the officers had “no real choice but to use deadly force.”