When a black teenager died in a house fire during a SWAT raid in Albuquerque, New Mexico last week, he became the new face of alleged police misconduct in a city where cops have long faced severe scrutiny.
However, the somber episode was darkened by the fact that the 15-year-old’s own father was killed by a member of one of the law enforcement agencies involved in the incident.
Shela Rosenau, the boy’s aunt, said in an interview that her nephew Brett’s death last Thursday hit her hard. Their relationship had only been rekindled in recent years after the teenager took to Facebook with questions about his father’s family.
And she wondered if the knowledge of his father’s death at the hands of local cops might have contributed to his own untimely death.
“I think that might be why little Brett — I think that’s maybe why he was scared of the police” and didn’t get out of the house on time last week, she told The Daily Beast.
Last Thursday, the Albuquerque Police Department and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department pursued an elderly man, Qiaunt Kelley, for alleged probation violations when the man and teenager walked to a home in the city’s International Quarter. Cops said Kelley allegedly violated his probation on armed theft auto and stolen vehicle charges.
SWAT became involved in a standoff, and police dispatched “irritant delivery devices” to the San Joaquin Avenue SE home where the man had barricaded himself.
After a fire ignited, witnesses told reporters that police waited nearly 40 minutes while the fire burned before fumigating Kelley and arresting him with burns. Police say after realizing the smoke was coming from the house, the standoff ended.
Only then did rescue workers go into the home to search for the minor, who was identified by police on Sunday as 15-year-old Brett Rosenau.
“Forty minutes of smoke inhalation will kill anyone. That’s common sense,” Shela Rosenau told The Daily Beast.
“So that they wait 40 minutes is just not right. It’s terrible,” she said. “I think in that situation you save a life and they had to get in there… I mean, that’s their job. They shouldn’t have sat back and waited for them to come out.”
After police pulled the boy from the flames, witnesses told Source New Mexico that his body was left outside the home. Police said Rosenau died of smoke inhalation.
Deja, the daughter of the homeowners unrelated to the Rosenaus, told Source New Mexico that her family begged police that there was another boy in the home.
“And they let him die, cremated,” she told the New Mexico source.
Police now say they are investigating whether the fire could have been started by their own devices, which similar versions are known to cause fires.
The Bernalillo Sheriff’s Department forwarded requests for comment and questions from The Daily Beast to the Albuquerque Police Department.
APD did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“I know many people in our community are injured right now and appreciate everyone’s patience while the incident is thoroughly investigated,” APD chief Harold Medina said in a statement released by the department on Sunday. “If any of our actions inadvertently contributed to his death, we will take steps to ensure this never happens again.”
Brett Rosenau’s father, also known as Brett, was shot and killed by a Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy on New Year’s Eve 2006 while fleeing law enforcement on foot after a traffic stop, according to the report Albuquerque Journal. Cops said the elder Rosenau was shot while pointing a gun at the pursuing deputy.
Shela Rosenau, who along with her relatives denies her brother had a gun when he was killed, said the shooting tore the family apart.
“You know, I don’t know, it just destroyed that kind of relationship that we could have had,” she said.
Three years later, a grand jury ruled the shooting “justified,” according to the reporting diary.
Though police were quick to declare this week that the younger Rosenau “was not shot by anyone,” the boy’s death is the latest in many cases of Albuquerque police-related deaths. In 2014, the Department of Justice found that Albuquerque police officers “were engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force contrary to the Constitution and federal law.”
While the subsequent pending consent order was against the local police department, officers said at least one member of the sheriff’s department behind the death of the teen’s father was also present at the raid.
At older Brett Rosenau’s funeral, Shela said she met Amanda Lopez, who was then pregnant with the future sports lover, who would be named after his father. Shela Rosenau said the families have since become estranged.
In a statement released by her attorneys after the teen’s death, Lopez called her son a multi-talented athlete who was “a smart and funny boy who walked to the beat of his own drum.” Dubbed a “pioneer” by his mother, the boy was undeterred by his smaller stature when playing sports like baseball and soccer.
“He has never been shy about being clingy and loving,” the statement said. “His mother was always amazed that he never felt embarrassed when she asked him to hug or kiss her in front of his friends.”
After his death, the family is taking time to grieve and “is still looking for answers,” Lopez’s attorney, Taylor Smith, said.
“We don’t want this to be swept under the rug either,” Smith said. “That’s why we, along with the ACLU, called for an independent and transparent investigation into police behavior.”
The boy, his aunt said, was always curious about his father — and attorneys for the Lopez family confirmed he knew how his own father died.
“He was really excited to see some pictures I sent him [of his father]. He was just excited to meet his family,” Shela Rosenau said when he reached out via Facebook about four years ago.
She doesn’t know him as well as others in his life, she said. But if her chats showed her anything, it’s this:
“He’s a great boy,” Shela Rosenau told The Daily Beast.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/brett-rosenau-a-black-teen-died-in-a-swat-raid-in-albuquerque-new-mexico-cops-killed-his-dad-15-years-ago?source=articles&via=rss Brett Rosenau, a black teenager, died in a SWAT raid in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Police officers killed his father 15 years ago.