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New Mexico police to officer: No cellphone photos of bodies

September 05, 2012|By John M. Glionna
  • Just because a cellphone owner can take a picture doesn't mean a cellphone owner should take a picture.
Just because a cellphone owner can take a picture doesn't mean a cellphone… (Damien Meyer / AFP/GettyImages )

New Mexico defense attorney Dan Cron says he knows police have a lot of responsibilities at a crime scene, especially when someone is shot and killed by officers.

But one of them is not snapping pictures with a cellphone camera.

A state police officer is under investigation for taking unauthorized photographs of Sam Pauly, a 33-year-old man shot and killed by police. After a traffic accident, officers had followed his brother to the residence that the men shared, about 10 miles east of Sante Fe.

The New Mexico State Police chief this week apologized for the actions of the unnamed officer and said such "unprofessionalism" would not be tolerated.

A grand jury will meet soon to determine whether the shooting was justified. But Cron, who represents Pauly's brother, says the investigation has been compromised.

“Taking photos with a personal cellphone during the course of a crime investigation compromises the integrity of the investigation and the agency,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

“Why would you do something like that? There’s no good reason I can think of. He somehow thought that was the way to brag to his friends about what a tough line of work he’s in. Police shouldn’t be snapping photos at crime scenes, unless it’s for evidentiary purposes.”

The officer who took the photos was reportedly tasked with guarding the body while other officers searched for evidence.

The shooting took place in October after the victim's brother, Dan Pauly, was involved in an altercation with another driver. That driver called police to report the incident, and officers used Pauly’s license plate to find his home in Glorieta.

The Pauly brothers saw flashlights outside and thought they belonged to an intruder, Cron said.

Each grabbed a weapon. Dan Pauly went out the back door and fired several shots with his shotgun. Sam was still in the living room, holding an antique revolver, when he was shot in the chest by police. He died at the scene.

After the shooting, an officer assigned to maintain scene security snapped a photograph of the body with a personal cellphone and shared it with others.

The district attorney, Angela "Spence" Pacheco, said the unauthorized picture was disclosed as soon as it was discovered. But Cron says the photograph and its subsequent distribution clearly show the investigation has been compromised and should be turned over to an outside agency for review.

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john.glionna@latimes.com

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