Wellness Check Turns Deadly despite Warning of Mental Health Issues
On March 30, when Veronica Ajanel could not get hold of her father for a week, she called local Albuquerque Police Department to ask if they could do a wellness check on him. She explained that her father, Valente Acosta-Bustillos, was suffering from mental health issues and experienced delusions and psychosis.
Two police officers were dispatched to the home. Once there, the officers say that at least one officer shot Acosta-Bustillos during a confrontation. Officers had learned that he had a warrant out for his arrest for a violent felony and attempted to arrest him. Police say he swung a shovel at them when they tried to arrest him without the use of less-lethal force.
Acosta-Bustillos was taken to the hospital after, where he died from his injuries. Veronica Ajanel says that calling the authorities to check on her father was “the biggest mistake I’ve ever made.”
Over 100 protesters gathered outside the Albuquerque Police Department’s Downtown headquarters, demanding justice for Acosta-Bustillos and Orlando Abeyta. Abeyta was a 29-year-old man shot by APD police officers in January after he pointed a BB gun at passengers on a bus. According to an APD spokesman, an investigation was launched into the incidents. Officers maintain that attempts to use less-lethal force were not successful, which was why firearms were involved. APD maintains that the use of lethal force against Acosta-Bustillos and Orlando Abeyta were “within policy”.
The warrant for Acosta Bustillo’s arrest was for an incident that occurred on March 8, where he was accused of beating his neighbour with a hammer and threatening to kill him. He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Officers brought Acosta-Bustillos into custody and found he was carrying a hammer multi-tool. He was released soon after on his own recognizance. The warrant was issued on March 17, after he failed to report to pre-trial supervision.
The incident on March 30 occurred after Ajanel says that no one had heard from her father for about a week. He had failed to show up to his construction job and neither his boss nor his family were able to get a hold of him.
“He didn’t deserve to die, not in the way he did,” Ajanel, surrounded by family, said to a large crowd in the street below. “Still, we can’t even believe he’s gone.”