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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Albuquerque police say one of their own is dead after accidentally shooting himself at his home in the mountains east of the city on Wednesday morning.
Police said Lt. Todd Parkins was putting a shotgun away when it discharged, hitting him in the chest. He was taken to an Albuquerque hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The incident is under investigation by the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department.
Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz described Parkins as "a cop's cop," saying he paid close attention to detail and always had a smile on his face.
Parkins was a 15-year veteran of the force.
Mayor Martin Chavez said he was deeply saddened to learn of Parkins' death. He called the lieutenant a close friend and said he will be sorely missed.


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New Mexico Officer Killed In Accidental Shooting

Albuquerque police officials said an Albuquerque Police Department officer has been killed in an accidental shooting at his home Wednesday morning.

Police said Lt. Todd Parkins died Wednesday morning, the victim of an accidental gunshot to the chest while at his home as he prepared to take some time off.

Police said Parkins was at home putting his gun in a safe when it discharged, hitting the officer in the chest.
Police said Parkins was alive when medical help arrived at his East Mountains home, but died shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday at University Of New Mexico Hospital.

"There was a discharge of a firearm, and everything appears to be at this point and time a huge tragedy and an accident," said Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz.

Parkins, A 15-year veteran with Albuquerque police, worked his way up to the position of overseeing APD's entire traffic unit. From Balloon Fiesta to presidential visits, Parkins was responsible for coordinating and planning the police escorts to keep those in traffic safe.

"His expertise was used by officers and departments around the state, and of course the Secret Service," said Schultz. "Parkins has been a cop's cop, one of those people who always had a smile on their face. One of those people who made sure all the details were done, and perfect."

Schultz said Parkins had already completed the plans for this year's Balloon Fiesta.

The mood in the east mountains community that Parkins called home was a somber one, as news about the accident spread.

Residents, some who didn't even know Parkins, expressed their condolences for his family.

One man described it as tragic and shocking.

"The sheriff's officers and APD, they do a fantastic job," said Jamie Young of the Sandia Crust Pizza Company. "I've been a local business owner for a couple of years and they have all been in and have been supportive in here, and I just feel real bad for his family right now."

Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez released a statement on the officer's passing.

"I was deeply moved and saddened to learn that the Albuquerque Police Department has lost one of its best," the mayor's statement siad. "Lt. Todd Parkins' service to the Albuquerque community was invaluable. He was a close personal friend. My prayers and condolences to the family. Lt. Parkins will be sorely missed."

Schultz said services are planned for this Saturday at Hoffmantown Church at 10 a.m.

Parkins' brother is a Bernalillo County deputy.

His wife is a former APD officer. He has two children.

Thoughts For Officer Todd Parkins

Offer your thoughts and condolences to the family and colleagues of Officer Todd Parkins on this forum.

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New Mexico Officer's Death: Accident or Suicide?

Last September, wellknown Albuquerque police Lt. Todd Parkins was at his Cedar Crest home getting ready for a hunting trip with buddies when his shotgun went off, firing pellets into his chest and killing him.
Accident or suicide?
The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department and the Office of the Medical Investigator are at odds over that sensitive question.
The OMI ruled that the death of Parkins, a 15-year veteran, was suicide. Sheriff's officials, who investigated the shooting, dispute that. Initial indications were that the death was accidental, and they said the cause should now be listed as "undetermined."
New Mexico Chief Medial Investigator Ross Zumwalt said his office carefully reviewed the facts and that the ruling is "an opinion." He said his investigators felt the cause of death was "most likely" a suicide.
That shouldn't lead to an official ruling of "suicide" as the cause of death, Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White said.
"What concerns me is that Dr. Zumwalt can't prove conclusively that it was a suicide," White said. "Well, explain that to the family, because that is what his death certificate says. How can you say you're not 100 percent sure it was suicide and then your office signs a death certificate saying that it is?"
APD officials said Monday they were "extremely disappointed" with the OMI's ruling.
Parkins, 38, was killed Sept. 24. His wife and one of his two sons were nearby when the gun went off.
At the time, investigators said Parkins was preparing to leave with a group of officers on a four-day camping trip to the Pecos Wilderness when he was either getting the gun out of a safe or putting it back in when it fired a shot into his chest. He was taken to University of New Mexico Hospital, where he died.
Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department deputies said they did not know what caused the shotgun to go off, although it appeared to have been an accident.
The OMI disagreed and officially ruled the death a suicide on Parkins' death certificate.
According to OMI autopsy reports, Parkins was sitting in a chair in his office while his wife was in the hallway caring for one of their two children when she saw him fall from his chair.
The autopsy revealed that six pellets from the shotgun went through Parkins' left chest and exited his left back. The reports state that the trajectory of the wound was consistent with Parkins being seated in the chair away from the gun safe and bent over the gun "to allow the pellets to travel straight through his body."
An examination of the gun revealed there were no malfunctions, the reports state.
"Given the autopsy findings, and the extensive scene and firearm analysis, the following facts have been established: the shotgun was loaded; the shotgun was pointed at close range to the left chest; the safety was off, and the trigger was pulled," according to the reports.
Sheriff's investigators said they pointed out to OMI several facts that were not consistent with a person committing suicide, such as:
n Parkins just asked his wife to make him a sandwich.
n Parkins had packed up his truck for the camping trip and left it running.
n The gun was pointed near his shoulder, not his head, and it was at least 3 inches away.
n His handgun was nearby and would have been an easier weapon to use for a suicide.
n After he was shot, Parkins looked at his wife and said, "W hat happened? Please call."
"We understand that people looking at the same circumstances could come to a different opinion. We are not saying someone is right or someone is wrong," Zumwalt said. "I am not 100 percent convinced that it is. The doctors that signed the death certificate felt it was more likely a suicide than accident. That doesn't mean that it absolutely was."
Zu mwa lt wou ld not respond to the sheriff 's office's concerns to the Journal, although he said he is required by state law to make a ruling.
White noted that the OMI's office can rule that a cause of death is undetermined, and often does.
"We disagree with their ruling," White said of OMI's report. "We can't say it was accidental, and we can't say it is suicide."
Parkins was considered one of APD's rising stars and was well-known.
He was in charge of the police department's traffic unit, which was responsible for traffic control during major events and security for presidential visits.
Parkins and his family also were close with Mayor Martin Chávez and Police Chief Ray Schultz, appearing at numerous news conferences on their behalf.
Schultz was unavailable for comment Monday, but APD spokesman John Walsh said the chief was "extremely" disappointed with the ruling.

Story From: Albuquerque Journal

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Expert to review officer's alleged suicide

By T.J. Wilham
Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE - An expert witness in the O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake and Kobe Bryant cases has agreed to give a second opinion as to how a high-ranking Albuquerque police officer died last year.
Michael Baden, the former New York City Chief Medical Examiner and host of HBO's "Autopsy," will issue a report on the death of Lt. Todd Parkins - a development applauded by local law enforcement and the officer's family.
The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator ruled last month that Parkins committed suicide, a finding that has come under fire by APD, the officer's family and the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department, which investigated the death.
Last weekend, Sheriff Darren White contacted Baden, who agreed to review the case and issue a report.
On Monday, White's office mailed Baden autopsy photos, witness statements, pathologists reports and the firearms examiner's report.
Baden, chief pathologist for the New York State Police, has not given a timetable on when his report will be ready. White said Baden has not asked to be compensated.
"This is the legacy of a good cop and a good man," White said of Parkins' death. "Based on our own investigation, we disagree with (OMI's) findings and feel that this deserves a second opinion."
New Mexico Chief Medical Investigator Ross Zumwalt didn't return phone calls seeking comment Monday.
Parkins, 38, was killed Sept. 24 when his shotgun went off inside his home, sending pellets through his collarbone and into the ceiling. His wife and one of his two sons were nearby when the gun went off.
At the time, investigators said Parkins was preparing to leave with a group of officers on a four-day camping trip to the Pecos Wilderness. Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department deputies said they did not know what caused the shotgun to go off, although it appeared to have been an accident.
The OMI disagreed and officially ruled the death a suicide on Parkins' death certificate.
White has said the OMI should have ruled the death "undetermined," which it has done hundreds of times before.
The sheriff's department has pointed to facts it says don't fit with a suicide ruling: Parkins had just asked his wife to make him a sandwich; he had just packed his truck for the camping trip and left it running; several handguns were nearby, which he could have used; the shotgun was at least three inches from his body when it went off; and, after he was shot, Parkins looked at his wife and said, "What happened? Please call."
When interviewed about the ruling last week, Zumwalt said he wasn't "100 percent sure" the death was suicide, despite the ruling on the certificate.
White said that statement prompted him to contact Baden.
"When I heard he had said that, I scratched my head," White said. "If he is not sure, then why are we even having this conversation?"
According to a biography posted on HBO's Web site, Baden has been a consultant to the FBI, DEA, ATF and the U.S. Justice Department. He is also the forensic science contributor for Fox News. According to the bio, he has conducted more than 22,000 autopsies and was a member of the Congress Select Committee that re-investigated the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.
Family may sue
Parkins' father-in-law, John Duff, who is a retired Albuquerque police officer, said Monday he was pleased to learn that Baden was reviewing the case. He also said the family is planning to request a meeting with OMI to see if it will change the ruling.
If not, Duff said, the family will take OMI to court. If the ruling stands, the family will lose about $130,000 in life insurance money, but Duff said the loss is minimal because the family is still getting a substantial payment.
"The concern is for (Todd's) children," he said. "We want OMI to change it. As long as we believe it is a reasonable outcome, we will pursue this issue as far as we can, including legal action."

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