Officers kill homeowner after responding to wrong address
FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Officers with the Farmington Police Department in northwestern New Mexico shot and killed a homeowner when they showed up at the wrong address in response to a domestic violence call, state police investigators said.
The shooting happened around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. New Mexico State Police released more details late Thursday, and Farmington police confirmed Friday that the three officers involved are on paid administrative leave pending a review of the case.
The officers were not immediately identified, and it wasn’t clear what administrative action could be taken.
Body camera footage reviewed by state police shows the homeowner opening the screen door armed with a handgun and that’s when officers retreated and fired. Not knowing who was outside, the man’s wife returned fire from the doorway and officers fired again.
State police said the woman put down her gun after realizing the individuals outside her home were police officers.
Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said in a social media post that it was a chaotic scene and that more information will be released in the coming week. He called it a dark day for the police force and for the family of homeowner, who was identified as Robert Dotson.
“What I will tell you as the chief is that this is an extremely traumatic event and that I am just heartbroken by the circumstances surrounding this,” he said. “... This ending is just unbelievably tragic. I am extremely sorry that we are in this position.”
The case comes amid an ongoing reckoning across the country over use of force by law enforcement officers. Most recently, the U.S. Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation after a U.S. Park Police officer in Washington fatally shot a 17-year-old who drove off with an officer in the back seat after being found asleep in a suspected stolen car.
In Farmington, the officers had initially knocked on the front door of the wrong home and announced themselves as police officers. When there was no answer, they asked dispatchers to call the reporting party back and have them come to the front door.
Dotson, 52, was pronounced dead at the scene.
When asked about the initial report of domestic violence that came from a home across the street, Farmington police spokesperson Shanice Gonzales said no action was taken against any of the parties in that case and that no one was armed at that address.
The shooting remains under investigation. The State Police Investigations Bureau said any findings will be shared with the district attorney for further review.