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No civil rights charges for New Mexico police who shot homeless man

(Reuters) - Two New Mexico police officers will not face federal civil rights charges over the 2014 fatal shooting of a homeless man that triggered violent protests, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.

Albuquerque Police Department Officer Dominique Perez and now-retired Keith Sandy were charged with murder for shooting James Boyd, 38, at an illegal campsite. Their trial ended in a hung jury last year without further charges.

A review by prosecutors showed there was not enough evidence to prove that Perez and Sandy violated Boyd's civil rights, the Justice Department said in a statement.

"The evidence, when viewed as whole, indicates that the officers fired only after reasonably perceiving that Boyd posed a serious threat of physical harm to a fellow officer," it said.

Boyd, who the two officers knew had a history of mental illness and violent crime, was brandishing two knives and was close to a third officer when Perez and Sandy opened fire on him, according to the statement and prior trial testimony.

Rock-throwing protests erupted after the shooting, which came at a time when the Justice Department was already investigating the Albuquerque police force over accusations of using force on civilians.

Albuquerque officials agreed in 2015 to pay $5 million to Boyd's family to settle a wrongful death civil case.

Shannon Kennedy, a lawyer for Boyd's family, said the relatives appreciated the investigation into the shooting by the Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"His death galvanized the City of Albuquerque to make swift and lasting change within the City of Albuquerque police department that has no doubt saved lives," she said in an emailed statement.

Perez was fired from the police department after being charged in state court, but was later reinstated, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney)