Created: November 20, 2019 10:21 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - An Albuquerque police officer is at the center of a $40,000 legal settlement after he ran a red light and crashed his patrol car into another driver.
Lapel video of the incident obtained by KOB 4 Investigates revealed that a YouTube video was playing on a department-issued laptop inside the patrol car moments before the crash.
On the night of Dec. 7, 2017 APD Officer Bryce Willsey was on duty when he drove his patrol car through uptown Albuquerque. Investigators say Officer Willsey blew through a red light at the intersection of Louisiana and Americas Parkway.
According to police records, the victim was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
Officer Willsey explained to the investigating traffic officer: “I'm traveling northbound on Louisiana coming up to this light and doing about 35 miles an hour. I looked up and I saw a green — I don't know exactly where I saw a green but I saw a green light and the next thing I know is… a [expletive] air bag going off in front of me.”
However, witnesses told traffic investigators something different.
“We were behind [the officer’s patrol car.] We thought he was going to turn his lights on because the light was already red – and he kept going,” said witness Melissa Cordova.
Officer Willsey turned on his lapel camera seconds after the crash. However, the cameras are designed to record everything that happened 30 seconds before they’re activated.
The lapel video captured a YouTube video playing on the officer’s work-issued laptop. After the airbag deployed, the officer quickly closes the laptop before exiting his patrol car.
“That’s just crazy. He’s too busy watching YouTube to pay attention to the road and the safety of people,” Cordova said.
The video’s title revealed a 27-minute long tutorial on how to play a popular video game.
It’s not entirely clear whether the officer was actively watching the video when he crashed since he did not mention it in his interview with the traffic investigator and there’s no mention of the YouTube video in any public reports.
The crash triggered a lawsuit and an internal review within the police department.
The 4 Investigates team has learned there is no APD policy against using the department computer for personal reasons.
“There’s nothing directly related to that and I know officers that will have even YouTube or something on their computer just listening to a podcast or something in the background. They’re allowed to do that – but they can’t be doing something that’s distracting them from actually driving,” said APD spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos.
Officer Willsey remains on the job. However, authorities say the officer was disciplined by the department – not for watching YouTube but for violating traffic laws.
“Perhaps he was watching the video and that distracted him and he ran the red light,” said Gallegos. “The act of running the red light is what caused him being at fault and what triggered the discipline in this case.”
“We take it very seriously. The job of the police department is to keep the public safe and enforce laws so officers should be held to the same standards,” said Gallegos.
Within the last few weeks, the lawsuit against the officer was dropped because a settlement was reached with the city. The female victim received a $40,000 payout.
The victim declined to comment for this story through her attorney.
Attempts to reach Officer Willsey directly were unsuccessful.
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