One year later: Las Cruces officer charged with manslaughter in 2022 gas station shooting

A Las Cruces police officer has been charged in the shooting death of a 36-year-old man in a Chevron gas station more than a year ago.

Attorney General Raul Torrez announced Wednesday that they are charging LCPD officer Brad Lunsford with voluntary manslaughter with a firearm enhancement, for the death of Presley Eze in August 2022.

The announcement comes after use-of-force experts reviewed bodycam footage and concluded that Lunsford’s use of deadly force wasn’t reasonable, according to the New Mexico Attorney General’s office.

Attorney General Torrez released the following statement along with the announcement:

The killing of Presley Eze is a tragedy and serves as yet another example of poor police tactics resulting in an unjustifiable use of force to subdue an individual resisting arrest for the commission of a minor crime. As New Mexico’s chief law enforcement officer, I have a duty to hold everyone accountable for violations of the law and that includes police officers who cross the line.

Speaking with KFOX14/CBS4 NM AG Torrez said, “the level of resistance [Eze displayed] did not justify the use of deadly force.” Adding, “There were other alternatives and lesser forms of force that could’ve been applied.”

Addressing the charges Officer Lunsford is facing, AG Torrez said, “It’s a form of homicide, but it’s certainly not the highest. In part because we couldn’t and didn’t see any evidence of premeditation or malice or something like that.”

Attorney General Torrez asked the Las Cruces community to allow the criminal justice system to do its work and refrain from public disorder whether they like or dislike the decision.

“I urge every member of our community and others around the country to not add to this tragedy by engaging in acts of public disorder and violence,” Torrez said. “Whether you support or oppose the decision to bring charges in this case, we must remain committed to the rule of law and work towards healing the divisions in this country that prevent meaningful progress towards reducing violence on our streets.”

RELATED: ACLU calls on LCPD to release body camera video from deadly officer-involved shooting

On the afternoon of August 2, 2022, at the Chevron gas station located at 2645 South Valley Drive, just a few blocks from University Park, a gas station attendant called 911 after they said they saw a shirtless African-American man walk out of the store with a beer he didn’t pay for and was drinking it at a gas pump.

According to police documents, the 911 dispatcher asked if the shirtless man was armed, and the gas attendant responded, “Not that I could see.”

Officer Lunsford arrived on the scene and started questioning Eze who was sitting inside a vehicle parked by a gas pump and fit the caller’s description.

According to police documents, Officer Lunsford asked Eze “What’s the deal with the people inside?” and Eze told him he had walked into the store with a beer in his hand and they started harassing him when he walked out.

Officer Lunsford and another officer then tried to arrest Eze after failing to verify his identity and a struggle ensued.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, Officer Lunsford shot Eze in the back of the head after Eze was on top of the other officer and had his hand on the officer’s taser.

Eze was, reportedly, unarmed.

Below is a cellphone video of the shooting (it’s been zoomed in, slowed and edited for content):

Below is the body-cam video of the officer assisting Lunsford:

NAACP President Bobbie Greene applauded the Attorney General’s decision and said:

we are grateful to New Mexico Attorney General, Raul Torrez for seeking accountability. We know that this will not bring Presley back, but we hope it will bring some comfort to the Eze family. Our thoughts and prayers and our full support is with the Eze family and a young child who is now forced to grow up without his father.

Below is the officer’s arrest warrant:

RELATED: Las Cruces police responds to 5 officer involved shootings this year; 2 of them deadly

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