(Reuters) – New Mexico’s attorney general has charged a police officer with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of a Black nurse during a struggle last year in which police say the nurse took an officer’s taser.
Las Cruces police officer Brad Lunsford allegedly shot Presley Eze, a 36-year-old Connecticut man working in a Las Cruces nursing home, in the back of the head in August 2022 at a gas station. The officers had stopped Eze after an employee reported he shoplifted a beer from the station, according to police records and video.
State Attorney General Raul Torrez on Tuesday said the killing was an unjustifiable use of force and another example of “poor police tactics.”
Torrez said in a statement that his office consulted with use-of-force experts who concluded that deadly force was not reasonable in the circumstances.
Eze is among Black Americans killed by police in recent years whose deaths have sparked protests and a renewed push for civil rights and curbs on police brutality.
Lunsford was booked on the charge and released on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Torrez said.
Luis Robles, a lawyer for Lunsford, said that during a struggle Eze fell atop a second officer, tried to take the officer’s handgun, then took his taser as Lundsford attempted to pull Eze off.
Lundsford feared he and the second officer could be tasered and possibly shot with one of their own handguns while incapacitated, Robles said.
(Reporting By Andrew Hay; Editing by Donna Bryson and Bill Berkrot)