GRAPHIC: Albuquerque man wielding shovel shot dead by police

Bodycam footage of a man wielding a shovel shot dead by police at his home in Albuquerque last month has been released to the public.

When Albuquerque Police Department officer Edgar Sandoval and his partner were called to a home near Broadway and Coal SE for a welfare check on March 30, they knew the resident well enough to know he preferred to speak in Spanish.

The two officers had been sent to talk to 52-year-old Valente Acosta-Bustillos at least two times before.

But this time, the situation quickly escalated, and Sandoval ended up shooting Acosta-Bustillos during a confrontation inside the man’s home. 

Acosta-Bustillos was taken to a hospital, where he died.

Bodycam footage released by APD on Tuesday shows when the officers approached Acosta-Bustillos – who appeared to have been doing yardwork at his house in the 900 block of Edith SE – stopped what he was doing and chatted calmly with them in Spanish, leaning against a door frame with a shovel resting in his hands.

His family had asked the police to check on him after he didn’t show up for work or answer his phone for several days.

But everything changed when the officers learned he had a felony warrant for his arrest after he was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and failed to show up for a court hearing.

That’s when, police say, Acosta-Bustillos ran back inside his home, with the officers in pursuit, and threatened them with a shovel.

Sandoval opened fire, striking Acosta-Bustillos three times, fatally wounding him.

“The call changed from a welfare check to a felony arrest, which the officers were obligated to enforce,” Lt. Scott Norris of APD’s violent crimes section said during a televised media briefing Tuesday.

However, an attorney representing Acosta-Bustillos’s family questioned why the officers rushed into his home instead of calling for additional resources and why Sandoval didn’t use less lethal force, as his partner did.

“My client calls in to ask for a welfare check to make sure everything is OK,” attorney Mark Caruso said. “… She calls APD to check on her father, and it ends up APD is the cause of his death.”

Caruso said he has filed a tort claim notice and is preparing to file a lawsuit against the department and officer Sandoval.