There are still more questions than answers following a house fire started by the Albuquerque Police Department during a SWAT standoff in July. A fire started by a “flash-bang” device used by APD killed 15-year-old Brett Rosenau. The fire also left Qiaunt Kelley, who was wanted for failing to report to his parole officer, covered in burns.
Now, new police documents obtained by The Paper. detailing the all-out assault on the house where Kelley and Rosenau were inside paints a chaotic picture, one where police repeatedly gassed the home on San Joaquin SE, used multiple flash-bang grenades and even lifted the roof off to throw a gas canister inside. Several officer reports say all of this was done despite Kelley attempting to surrender.
Previous stories by The Paper. detailed how, when Kelley did attempt to surrender prior to the house fire, police ordered him to stand up and walk through a side yard and, when he didn’t, they launched another flash-bang grenade behind him.
But what about Rosenau, a child of only 15? Was he considered a suspect or a hostage? And why were officers so focused on the claim that he had facial hair?
Conflicting Reasons for Kelley’s Warrant
Reports from various APD officers on scene go into great detail about what charges Kelley was facing, but they contradict each other.
Some officers say clearly that Kelley had an active parole violation warrant, but other reports say Kelley had a felony warrant for robbery and car theft. Some list the warrant as a state warrant and others as a federal warrant. Other officer reports claim that Kelley had two active warrants when detectives tried to arrest him.
The Paper. has reported that the only arrest warrant for Kelley that existed on July 6 was a parole violation warrant. Kelley was accused by his parole officer of failing to stay in touch and later of removing his ankle monitor.
Why the confusion with the warrant and what impact might it have had? It might have had a significant impact because APD’s SWAT team policies wouldn’t normally allow for their deployment just because someone allegedly absconded from parole.
At least some of the information police were sharing was unconfirmed.
“I was advised Mr. Kelley was involved in an officer-involved shooting, but I could not verify this nor was I familiar with the specific incident,” APD Officer Joseph Gumble wrote in his report.
But that didn’t mean that APD officers hadn’t previously heard of Kelley; internal communications prior to the incident warned he could be dangerous.
“I was aware of multiple officer safety bulletins regarding Mr. Kelley. Those bulletins warned the following: ‘This suspect [Mr. Kelley] is considered to be armed and dangerous. Based upon credible information, it is anticipated that if contacted he will flee from law enforcement and will very likely engage with law enforcement in a violent manner. Use caution,’” Gumble wrote.
Child or Adult?
APD didn’t even know the name of 15-year-old Brett Rosenau until after they found his body. The department said it wasn’t sure exactly who the boy was, or why he was in the house. APD hasn’t said how officers determined Rosenau was older than 10, and hasn’t said conclusively how it was determined that Rosenau was inside the home with Kelley of his own free will.
Newly obtained records show just how confused police were regarding Rosenau.
“At first detectives stated the male was eight to nine years old but later I was advised by Sergeant A. Sandoval that the juvenile was in his teens and had facile (sic) hair leading me to believe he was in his older teenage years,” APD Sgt. Michael Jones who was temporarily assigned to the SWAT team wrote in his report following the incident.
APD K-9 Handler Robert Sanchez also wrote he was initially told Rosenau was between eight and ten years old.
“With this information, a PSD [Police Service Dog] deployment was not an option due to an unrelated party being within the residence if the situation led to the entry (sic) making entry into the residence,” Sanchez wrote.
Some reports seem to indicate that if Rosenau was older, different weapons and tactics would have been used to try and extract Kelley from the home. Later in the evening, police determined that Rosenau was older but they still didn’t know who he was.
APD Decides Child is a Teen
“[The crisis negotiation team] gathered intel that the juvenile seen accompanying [Kelley] was a 15-year-old male with facial hair,” Sanchez wrote in another paragraph. “With this information, this allowed us to utilize chemical munitions to make the inside of the residence an uncomfortable environment and encourage the occupants to exit and surrender peacefully.”
It was another officer’s report that sheds light on how APD determined that Rosenau was willingly inside the home and not a hostage.
“This unknown person was described as a male juvenile approximately 14 years of age, the juvenile was only described as having facial hair.” Joseph Gumble, APD SWAT wrote. “The unknown juvenile was seen running with Mr. Kelley. Because of this, there was no reason to believe the unknown juvenile was being held against his will.”
It’s unclear where or how APD gathered additional information that stated Rosenau was older and had facial hair as not all of the requested records from the incident have been provided to The Paper. as of press time.
Was Surrender an Option for Rosenau?
It’s unclear whether or not Brett Rosenau understood what was happening when APD surrounded the house and began its assault, although previously APD said Rosenau was given a chance to surrender.
The only video APD has released that shows Rosenau is a brief clip from before the SWAT team arrived.
What is clear is that Rosenau died in the home before police or firefighters ever reached him. He was found on the bathroom floor.
If he yells
Dispatch records released by APD Friday indicate that in order to be helped, Rosenau would have had to yell to officers outside the home.
“If child yells for help, need an immediate access to house,” the dispatch log reads at 10:35 p.m. It was later, at 11:14 p.m. that dispatch logs indicate APD had made their determination.
“Confirmed teen w/facial hair ran into the [house] after the subj,” the log states.
Later, the logs indicate that APD worked diligently to ensure that there was no breathable air in the home.
“Last possible air supply at swamp cooler,” the log states at 1:49 a.m. July 7. “Hit that with pepper balls to see if a reaction from male.”
Rosenau was ‘badly burned’
According to reports, after the house was fully engulfed in flames, Kelley exited and was carried down the street to an ambulance.
“Finally, [Kelley] came running out of the front door, diving on the floor,” APD K-9 Officer Robert Sanchez wrote. “I began telling other tactical officers to assist me in carrying him to the ambulance that was parked down the street. It should be noted, I did not used (sic) force upon [Kelley] nor did I have to overcome any type of resistance.”
Sanchez wrote that it appeared Kelley was in and out of consciousness and, when he would come to, he was startled but not actively resisting arrest.
APD Officer Joseph Gumble wrote that he helped Sanchez carry Kelley to the ambulance.
“It was at this point we learned the unknown juvenile, who was now being referred to as Mr. Kelley’s ‘kid brother’ was still in the house, inside of the bathroom,” Gumble wrote. “Because the house was so enveloped in smoke, we could not enter the house.”
AFR was able to enter the house and get to Rosenau, but by then, it was too late.
“AFR personnel brought out a young juvenile that was unconscious and not breathing,” Sanchez wrote. “The juvenile appeared to be badly burned. The juvenile was pronounced deceased on scene by medical personnel.”
Sanchez wrote that he stood by, guarding Rosenau’s body until he was relieved by other APD officers.
APD records show that once there was fire inside the home, they chose to drag a flaming mattress through the house to the driveway, before AFR began fighting the fire.
In a press release issued on July 10, just days after the fire, APD said the preliminary autopsy report showed Rosenau died from smoke inhalation.
“If any of our actions inadvertently contributed to his death, we will take steps to ensure this never happens again,” APD Chief Harold Medina said at that time.
The Paper. will continue to examine this incident and other APD tactics still in use that led to the city’s Court Approved Settlement Agreement with the Department of Justice.