June 28, 2018
Link to story on KOB.com: https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/its-on-bank-robbery-suspect-shot-at-officer-during-pursuit-that-ended-with-fatal-smiths-shooting/4967947/
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Albuquerque Police say concern for the public and a chaotic car pursuit involving gunfire factored into an APD officer’s decision to fire rounds at a chronic bank robbery suspect earlier this month in southeast Albuquerque.
47-year-old Richard Rivera – who had a criminal history dating back to 1995 – died when a veteran APD officer shot at him in the parking lot of Smith’s at Coal and Yale on June 16, APD Lt. Ray Del Greco said at a Thursday morning press conference.
It was the culmination of a vehicle pursuit that began when Rivera and 39-year-old Jennifer Rael held up a Verizon store in northeast Albuquerque—the pair’s third armed robbery in less than a week, Del Greco said.
Del Greco said police were able to track the pair, in a stolen U-Haul van, not far from where the Verizon store is located. Rael told investigators the pursuit began after Rivera turned to her and said “It’s on” before pulling out a firearm.
The subsequent chase involved Rivera firing so many rounds at officers that Rael told investigators “she couldn’t keep count,” Del Greco said.
When a spike strip deployed by APD failed to stop the van, they attempted two pit maneuvers. After the first attempt, lapel video shows the officer firing five rounds at the van.
The pursuit continued briefly before the van was finally stopped at the Smith’s parking lot, after the third pit maneuver. The officer can be seen in lapel video leaving his cruiser, pursuing Rivera on foot while yelling at him to stop and then firing six shots as Rivera approached the Smith’s entrance.
Surveillance camera footage shows Rivera turning back to look at the officer and reaching for his right hip before the shots are fired.
“He was afraid Mr. Rivera was going to either shoot him, an innocent bystander in the parking lot or someone inside the Smith’s store,” Del Greco said, adding multiple witnesses told investigators they heard Rivera say twice that he had a gun.
Rivera died at the scene after attempts by officers to revive him were unsuccessful. Rael, meanwhile, was taken into custody.
Police later searched the van, where Del Greco said they found a cell phone taken from the earlier Verizon store robbery, a gun legally bought by Rael for Rivera earlier in the month, and empty shell casings.