It has been over a month since the Albuquerque Police Department’s tactical team started a house fire that killed 15-year-old Brett Rosenau on July 6. Still, the agency hasn’t produced all or really any of the details of the incident, instead spending the past month assembling what can only be described as a highlight reel of what police think the public deserves to know.
To put it briefly, what we now know is that APD officers were looking for Qiaunt Kelley, who had an active retake warrant for absconding from parole. The warrant was issued in March, and APD could have arrested him or attempted to locate him at anytime during the prior months if they had wanted to.
It wasn’t until July, after Kelley was accused of involvement in several other violent crimes, that APD used the pre-existing warrant to arrest Kelley. In fact, the pre-existing parole violation warrant became grounds for the search warrant APD obtained when Kelley refused to come out of the home on San Joaquin Ave.
“Detectives were conducting surveillance,” APD Detective Eric Enzel wrote in the affidavit for the search warrant. “Attempting to locate Kelley who was known to have an active Felony warrant (robbery) for his arrest.”
In the hours that Kelley and Rosenau were inside the home, APD assembled an array of troops that surrounded the home and used various munitions, loudspeakers, robots, armored vehicles and drones, all in a stated attempt to arrest Kelley for absconding from parole.
Some of those munitions, specifically a Flameless Tri-Chamber canister, caught a mattress on fire, which ultimately destroyed the home and lead to Rosenau’s death from smoke inhalation. Those canisters are known to cause fires, as we previously reported. The fire has been declared “accidental.”
The Highlight Reel
Last week APD held a press conference, where they released a series of carefully selected and trimmed audio and video clips from the July 6-7 police action. The released video and audio from the incident that lasted more than 8 hours and 50 minutes showed a total of 14 minutes and 26 seconds of APD actions that day. Nearly eight minutes of the footage included drone videos of the home and did not show any of the officers’ actions.
The total release of information from APD included three types of files: video, audio and still images.
The audio files account for one minute, 55 seconds of the total release:
-a recording of the crisis negotiating team’s use of a civilian to plead with Kelley to give himself up;
-a clip of APD officer radio traffic ordering shields to be placed in front of firefighters as they tried to extinguish the raging fire inside the home;
-and a clip where APD officers said they did not know whether or not Rosenau was willingly inside the home, or if he was a hostage.
APD still hasn’t said when or how they determined that Rosenau wasn’t a hostage or was otherwise inside the home of his own free will. They have, however, said repeatedly that Rosenau was no angel. The Paper. won’t be repeating any of the allegations APD has leveled at Rosenau: since he was a juvenile, no charges will be filed, and because he died at APD’s hands, he’ll never stand trial or be convicted.
Lapel video footage released by APD included just nine files, with a total runtime of four minutes and 50 seconds. The release included one video titled Commands to Brett in which an officer is pointing a weapon at the back wall of the San Joaquin home from a neighbor’s yard.
Rosenau jumps and places his hands and head over the wall as if he is about to jump over into the yard where police are standing.
“Police, hands up!” An unidentified APD officer yells as Rosenau starts to jump. Then Rosenau lowered himself back to the other side of the wall and put his hand in the air.
That’s when APD said Rosenau went into a shed where Kelley had gone. But, APD’s narrative of that interaction is decidedly different from the video they released.
“A juvenile, later identified as Brett Rosenau, 15, also ran into the backyard and was seen by detectives as he attempted to jump over the back wall,” APD wrote in a press release. “A detective gave him commands to surrender, but he refused and ran into the same opening of the shed that Kelley entered.”
It’s possible that another officer tried to convince Rosenau to surrender as APD said, but since the agency has not yet released all of the footage, reports and details regarding the incident, it’s simply impossible to know what happened. That’s especially true since APD has released conflicting information about the case, first insisting that Kelley had a federal warrant and then repeatedly saying he had a felony warrant for carjacking.
The Paper. previously reported on the discrepancies.
BCSO Under APD Direction
Another thing that stood out in APD’s release of information is the implication that it was a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Deputy, not an APD officer that deployed the Flameless Tri-Chamber canister that started the house fire.
That distinction could be misleading since it was at APD’s command that the BCSO deputy acted. That’s because any time a multi-agency operation is conducted at APD’s behest, it’s APD officers that run the show. Put simply, every action BCSO deputies took at the scene was at APD’s direction.
“APD keeps control of the scene,” APD Public Information Officer Gilbert Gallegos said via email on August 10.
No one knows what determinations APD made during the incident because the department hasn’t released any of that information from the day in question.
Public Records Delays Result in Lawsuit
The remaining hours of video and audio from the incident and all of the reports and documentation have not been released. So what did APD and BCSO do outside the home in the International District for the rest of the time? The public doesn’t know yet and the City of Albuquerque is nowhere near releasing that information to the public, despite numerous Inspection of Public Records Act requests submitted not only by The Paper. and other media but also by the law firm representing Rosenau’s mother.
Taylor Smith, an attorney with Rothstein Donatelli, filed a complaint in district court to force APD to hand over the records. According to the complaint, APD has not yet provided any records to the law firm, despite allegedly providing them to other entities.
“Upon information and belief, Defendants [APD] have made many of the records requested by Plaintiff available to others,” the complaint states.
New Mexico Attorney General’s Office (NMOAG) Director of Communications Jerri Mares seemed to confirm that their office had received at least some of the records from the incident.
“An independent team has begun the review of this tragic incident and we are unable to appropriately predict the completion,” Mares said via email.
It’s presumed that the NMOAG has at least been given some records, as the commencement of any review would be difficult without any available documentation.
APD has gathered most of the reports and information requested by the media and Smith. Judging by the timestamps on the various video and audio clips publicly released last week, the department has been working on trimming and selecting what to release for over a month.
The first of the released files were trimmed on July 7 at 6:28am just hours after the incident, and the last–a video from a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) deputy showing the home fully engulfed in flames–was trimmed or created on August 3 at 8:40pm.
With all of this information at their fingertips and being edited for release to the public, is APD being transparent about the actions it took that day?
“I think, you know, APD has not been transparent through this process,” Smith said.
That’s why he said his office filed the complaint: to enforce the state’s public records laws so that he and other people at the firm can do their own review of the incident.
Proactive or Reactive
The steps APD took to arrest Kelley raise even more questions about policing in the city, specifically whether police are proactively trying to prevent crime or if they are simply reacting to crimes already committed and passing the onus of the crime rate on to the court system.
Much has been said about the “revolving door” of the justice system by city leaders. Even APD Chief Harold Medina previously talked about how the court system needed to stop violent repeat offenders from roaming the streets.
The arrest of Kelley, that killed Brett Rosenau raises questions about that narrative. Kelley, a man with previous convictions that would qualify as violent offenses, roamed the streets of Albuquerque for months before APD began their search for him.
APD detectives only began seeking Kelley, who they have clearly established had an active felony warrant since March, in reaction to new crimes he allegedly committed.
What might have been the outcome for the citizens of Albuquerque if APD had instead been proactive in seeking and capturing Kelley in April? Would Brett Rosenau still be alive?