Two days after Albuquerque police officer Jeremy Dear shot and killed 19-year-old Mary Hawkes, he and another officer used their mandated time off to visit Hooters and a massage parlor.
The day trip was part of the dangerous “bromance” that contributed to Hawkes’s death, her family says in a new lawsuit accusing the officers of egging each other on into violent behavior. Dear shot and killed Hawkes in 2014 after he pulled her over for driving a car listed as stolen. During a foot chase through a trailer park, Dear said he saw Hawkes point a gun at him from close range. He opened fire on the teenager, killing her on the spot. But Hawkes’s family and one of Dear’s former coworkers contest the details of the shooting, which Dear did not record on his body camera.
“Defendant Jeremy Dear is the bad apple,” the family accuses in a lawsuit filed last week. The civil rights suit, which names Dear and the city of Albuquerque as defendants, is the family’s second legal action since their daughter’s death. They filed a wrongful death suit against the police department in March. The city of Albuquerque did not return a Wednesday request for comment, and the Albuquerque Police Department declined to comment due to ongoing investigations.
“His gratuitous killing of Mary S. Hawkes on April 21, 2014, was the culmination of his bromance with fellow officer Sonny Molina,” the suit reads. “Together, these officers created danger that would otherwise not have existed; used unwarranted, brutal force against Mary S. Hawkes, causing her death; and then relaxed after killing her by going first to ‘Hooters’ restaurant and then to a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ for a Chinese massage.”
Shannon Kennedy, the Hawkes family’s lawyer, said the trip to Hooters and the massage parlor suggest a department-wide disrespect for women.
“I think it’s just disgusting. It’s relevant because it’s an expression of the misogyny that runs through the Albuquerque Police Department,” Kennedy told The Daily Beast.
But Thomas Glover, Dear’s attorney who is not representing him in this specific case, dismissed the suit as “sensational” and “a distraction technique used to highlight a weak case.” The massage parlor was not a questionable “hole in the wall,” but a legitimate establishment next to a sushi restaurant, he told The Daily Beast. Dear’s then-fiancé worked at Hooters when Dear and Molina visited.
“He went to see his fiancé like anyone involved in a traumatic event,” Glover said.
Dear and Molina were close, and sometimes patrolled together. In 2013, they were named in a separate police brutality suit, in which an Albuquerque man accused Dear of pushing him to the ground and striking him in the face while both officers had their body cameras off. The suit settled for $90,000.
“They really are Batman and Robin,” Kennedy said. “They have more red flags and complaints than any other officers.”
It was Molina who first ran the license plates on Hawkes’s truck and discovered the vehicle to have been stolen. He called Dear and two other officers for backup. But when they pursued Hawkes through a trailer park, Dear said Hawkes pulled a gun on him, forcing him to shoot first in self-defense. His body camera was turned off, an accident due to a faulty cable, he told his superiors. Dear was later fired for repeatedly failing to use his body camera during arrests, some of which turned violent.
Hawkes’s family and one of Dear’s former colleagues have been quick to question the official account, accusing the police department of a cover-up. In their March lawsuit, the family pointed to an autopsy that showed Dear’s three shots entering Hawkes from the side, which the family said was a sign that Hawkes may not have been facing Dear with a gun, as he claimed. They also questioned whether the gun found on Hawkes’s person had been placed there after her death, as police did not find her DNA or fingerprints on the firearm. In a November 2016 affidavit, a former Albuquerque Police records officer accused the department of altering or destroying evidence, including body camera footage from two other officers on the scene of Hawkes’s death.
“I can see that [one officer]’s lapel camera video has been altered by changing the gradient of the resolution on the video,” former records officer Reynaldo Chavez said in a court statement. “I can see as much as the first twenty seconds of [the other officer’s] video has been deleted.”
Hawkes’s family claimed the incomplete footage was a deliberate ploy to conceal the shooting and its aftermath. They pointed to various frames in the footage, where Hawkes’s body appears to have been moved. The family also criticized Dear’s decision to plead the Fifth and refuse to answer any questions when placed under oath during an investigation into Hawkes’s death.
“Each officer who saw Mary S. Hawkes running from them failed to record her flight,” their suit reads, citing Chavez’s claims of evidence tampering. “In the immediate aftermath of her killing, defendant Officer Jeremy Dear and Sgt. Maurer had one care: his lapel camera. Sgt. Brian Maurer, on scene, ordered him to turn it off, while his partner Sonny Molina assured him with two words: ‘Good shot.’”
After the shooting, Molina stayed by Dear’s side. “They go into the car together and come up with this bullshit story,” Kennedy said of the pair’s official report.
Molina accompanied Dear to a mandated seminar on officer-involved shootings the next day, and took him out for a massage and a meal at Hooters the day after, Molina told investigators in a sworn deposition that surfaced this summer.
“I took him to go – you know, help keep his mind off of everything, so we went to go eat and then we went for a massage after,” Molina told investigators, in a transcript obtained by the Albuquerque Journal.
Administrative leave is standard for officers involved in shootings, and officers sometimes receive compensation for activities during their time off. When an officer is involved in a major incident, including fatal shootings, the Albuquerque Police Union reimburses up to $500 of their vacation costs or “decompression” expenses, the Albuquerque Journal reported in June.
But during the internal investigation, Albuquerque Police Chief Gordon Eden expressed concern with the officers’ decision to frequent a massage parlor after Hawkes’s shooting.
“It’s hard for us to regulate off-duty conduct, but that’s not the conduct that I would expect from any employee. Again, I don’t know which Chinese parlor it was. I don’t know if it’s legitimate, but personally it bothers me,” Eden said in the deposition.
Kennedy also accused the pair of adopting a too-casual attitude in the aftermath of the shooting.
She recalled a conversation with Molina, in which she described him as inappropriately casual when discussing Hawkes’s death. “I was talking to Molina about this bromance and it was just this jocular, devil-may-care attitude about taking the life a teenage girl.”
Approximately a month after Hawkes’s death, Molina was arrested on domestic violence charges, which were later dropped. “He went and got counseling,” Kennedy said. “There’s zero accountability.”
Dear has been previously accused of treating Hawkes’s death with a dismissive or misogynistic attitude. While attaching a boot to car in October 2014, Dear allegedly complained to the car owner’s son, asking if the man had heard about Hawkes’s death earlier that year, the girl’s family accused in their March lawsuit against the Albuquerque Police Department (PDF). Dear allegedly identified himself as her shooter, and complained of being stuck on traffic duty “because of that fucking bitch.”
“What the fuck was I supposed to do?” he allegedly asked. He has denied making the comments.