A video released this past week shows Albuquerque Police Officers shooting James Boyd, a homeless man camping in the foothills of Albuquerque, New Mexico. According to BBC News, the video details police using a flash bang, a Taser, two rifles, a bean bag rifle, and a police dog in arresting Boyd. He died the following day.
The tragic story surfaces in wake of the U.N. Human Rights Committee condemning the criminalization of homelessness in the United States as “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment”. The Committee’s statement is part of its Concluding Observations, following a two-day review of U.S. Government compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Chairperson Sir Nigel Rodley closed the review saying, “I’m just simply baffled by the idea that people can be without shelter in a country, and then be treated as criminals for being without shelter.”
The exact circumstances of the shooting are still under question. Unquestionably, however, this tragedy would have been avoided if not for an Albuquerque law prohibiting camping in the area. This law, effectively criminalizing those who are without a home, not only creates a legal reason for the arrest of homeless persons, but also puts people like James Boyd in potentially life-threatening situations with law enforcement.