New Mexico police officer charged with voluntary manslaughter

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LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A New Mexico police officer is now facing criminal charges for shooting a man point blank, in the back of the head.

It all started when a gas station attendant called 911 after a man reportedly left without paying for a beer in August 2022.

Las Cruces Police Officer Brad Lunsford was the first on scene and began questioning the man, later identified as Presley Eze, about what happened inside the gas station. Eze was a nurse working in the area.

Lunsford and another officer are unable to verify Eze’s identity, so they forced him out of a car in order to detain him. Eze was unarmed and shirtless, but resisted the officers’ attempt to take him into custody.

During the scuffle, Eze gets his hands on the second officer’s taser. A second later, Lunsford pulls out his gun and shoots Eze in the back of the head, killing him.

Now, New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez has announced that Lunsford has been charged with voluntary manslaughter with a firearm enhancement.

Torrez says Eze never used that taser. Eze’s family, their attorneys, and the local NAACP stood by as Torrez made the announcement Tuesday.

“We determined that criminal charges were justified in this context,” Torrez said.

Lunsford surrendered to agents from the Office of the Attorney General, and was taken into custody. Torrez says his office will not attempt to keep him in jail until trial.

Some say the city of Las Cruces tried to cover up what happened by not releasing public information. An outside attorney for the city “categorically” denied those allegations. He said the city was surprised to learn Lunsford was getting criminally charged, and no communication with the attorney general ahead of the announcement.

Torrez says there is a need, statewide, for truly independent investigators for cases like this.