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New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez announced charges against Las Cruces Police Officer Brad Lunsford for the 2022 shooting death of Presley Eze. Lunsford is charged with voluntary manslaughter with a firearm enhancement.
The Bulletin received the information from a news release from the attorney general’s office.
On the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 2, 2022, Presley Eze was at the Chevron gas station at 2645 S. Valley Dr. in Las Cruces. The gas station attendant called 911 after witnessing Eze leave the station with a beer he did not pay for. Officer Lunsford was the first officer on the scene and began questioning Eze about the situation inside the gas station. After being unable to verify Eze’s identity, Officer Lunsford and another officer forcibly removed Eze from the vehicle in order to detain him. Eze was unarmed and shirtless at the time but nevertheless resisted the officers’ attempt to take him into custody. A scuffle ensued and Eze ended up on the ground, on top of one of the responding officers. During the ongoing struggle Eze placed his hand on the second officer’s taser though it was not cycled or deployed against either officer. In response Officer Lunsford drew his service weapon and shot Eze on the back, left side of his head at point blank range.
As part of its investigation into this matter special agents with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office consulted with use of force experts who, upon reviewing the available footage, concluded that the Lunsford’s use of deadly force was not reasonable under the circumstances and that other, less lethal options could have been used to subdue Eze.
“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. “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.”
Attorney General Torrez also urged the community to allow the criminal justice system to do its work and refrain from public disorder.
“I urge every member of our community and others around the country to not add to this tragedy by engaging in acts of public disorder and violence,” Torrez said. “Whether you support or oppose the decision to bring charges in this case, we must remain committed to the rule of law and work towards healing the divisions in this country that prevent meaningful progress towards reducing violence on our streets.”
Doña Ana County NAACP President Bobbie Green of Las Cruces applauded the attorney general’s decision and said, “we are grateful to New Mexico attorney general Raul Torrez for seeking accountability. We know that this will not bring Presley back, but we hope it will bring some comfort to the Eze family. Our thoughts and prayers and our full support is with the Eze family and a young child who is now forced to grow up without his father.”
The attorney general’s office received discovery and materials from the investigating agencies this past month to make the determination to charge this officer.