Police take the wrong house and kill the owner

Authorities in northwestern New Mexico on Friday released body camera footage of police officers opening fire and killing a homeowner after they showed up at the wrong address in response to a domestic violence call.

Video released by the Farmington Police Department, just over a week after the April 5 nighttime shooting, showed officers arriving at the home. They walked to the front door, passed the address that was posted on the house and illuminated by an outside light, knocked on the door, and announced themselves.

As they ring two more times, officers can be heard asking a dispatcher to confirm the address and tell the caller to come to the door. The dispatcher indicates the address of a house across the street.

Shortly thereafter, the homeowner, armed with a handgun, opened the door and the officers immediately began shooting, firing multiple rounds as they backed up. The man can be seen falling to the ground.

About a minute later, a woman can be heard screaming inside the house, and more gunshots ring out.

Authorities have said the man’s wife returned fire from the doorway, not knowing who was outside, prompting officers to fire again. She was not injured, but she could be heard screaming and crying after she fired the second round of shots.

Dispatchers also received a frantic call from the man’s daughter, saying she heard banging and then gunshots and that her father needed help. She and two other children were inside the home at the time of the shooting.

Video showed a chaotic scene that erupted about 4 minutes after officers first arrived at the wrong address. Once the shooting stopped, blaring sirens rang out as more officers arrived.

The homeowner’s wife can be heard pleading with officers. "Aid! Someone shot my husband. Please! Please! My children are upstairs,” he said.

The officers asked her to come out and one yelled to handcuff her as they led her out of the house.

Why the officers approached from the wrong address remains part of an ongoing investigation, Farmington police said.

Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said Friday that the department was releasing the video in a desire to be forthcoming and transparent about what he called a dark day for the police force and for the family of the owner, identified as Robert Dotson. , 52 years old. .

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The department said the video was also reviewed by the Dotson family and their attorney before it was made public.

“All of us, the men and women of the Farmington Police Department, recognize the seriousness of this incident. We will do everything we can to better understand what happened here,” Hebbe said.

“Once again, we want to express our condolences to the Dotson family and, as your police chief, I want to convey how sorry I am that this tragedy has occurred. We will continue to provide updates as we can.”

Three officers have been placed on paid administrative leave pending an ongoing investigation. The officers have not been identified.

The case comes amid an ongoing nationwide reckoning over the use of force by law enforcement officers.

The State Police Office of Investigations is continuing to review the case and says the findings will be shared with the district attorney for further review.

An experienced officer-involved shooting investigator who saw the footage said he understands why Dotson would have a gun at the ready after taking an unexpected hit late at night. However, officers believed they were walking into a domestic violence situation and were taught that domestic violence calls are among the most dangerous, said Edward Obayashi, who is also a deputy sheriff and policy adviser for the Sheriff’s Office. Plumas County, California.

He said officers on domestic violence calls may find themselves facing people “bent” on killing the officers or being killed by the officers themselves.

“I’m not saying this is the situation here,” Obayashi said. “But officers definitely based on their training and experience at the national level are taught this. As soon as they saw the gun, instinctively that was exactly what went through their mind.”

How law enforcement ended up going the wrong way is what Obayashi has the most questions about. Investigators will look at all 911 calls and other communications to determine how much information officers entered, he said. They will want to know how serious the reported domestic violence incident was and whether the officers had information on weapons or police records, he said.

“It is tragic. Was it a justified shooting? Excessive force? Here, it’s not a problem for me,” Obayashi said. “It’s what led to that’s the problem. Who screwed up here?

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