Authorities in New Mexico have opted not to pursue charges against three police officers who were involved in a tragic fatal shooting last year.
The incident unfolded in the town of Farmington when officers mistakenly arrived at the wrong house while responding to a domestic violence call from a residence across the street.
The officers, upon reaching the Dotson residence on the evening of April 5, 2023, fired multiple shots, resulting in the death of Robert Dotson, 52, who had emerged from his home holding a gun.
The Dotson family initiated legal action against the department, filing a lawsuit last year. The family’s complaint detailed the events, stating that the police arrived at the Dotson residence without their lights on and parked down the street.
When Robert Dotson opened his front door armed with a weapon, the officers immediately opened fire, striking him 12 times. Additionally, 19 shots were fired at his wife, Kimberly, who fortunately escaped physical harm during the incident. Subsequently, police claimed that she had fired at them with a pistol.
In a letter dated January 26, Deputy Attorney General Greer Staley of New Mexico conveyed that the state’s justice department determined the officers “did not use excessive force under the circumstances when they discharged their weapons.”
The letter asserted that, despite the erroneous approach to the wrong house, the officers’ actions were deemed “reasonable, appropriate, and consistent with generally accepted police practices.”
An analysis featured in the report concluded that both Mr. and Mrs. Dotson posed an “imminent threat of death or great bodily harm” to the officers.
Responding to the decision, Doug Perrin, an attorney representing the Dotson family, expressed their disappointment, emphasizing the unsettling feeling that individuals may not be safe even in their own homes.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, in response to this week’s decision, called for “systemic change” in police use of force policies within the state.
ACLU’s investigation and research manager, Barron Jones, urged law enforcement officials to treat this tragic event as a learning opportunity, emphasizing the importance of de-escalation and rigorous use-of-force standards when responding to calls.
Simultaneously, a separate lawsuit has been filed in federal court against the department, alleging wrongful death and seeking unspecified damages.
The lawsuit contends that one of the officers opened fire instantly, and Mr. Dotson was “blinded by police flashlights.” It further asserts that the police did not identify themselves, leaving Mr. Dotson unaware of who was in his yard shining bright lights at him.