New Mexico Will Not Charge Officers Who Fatally Shot Man at Wrong Address - The World News

New Mexico Will Not Charge Officers Who Fatally Shot Man at Wrong Address

No criminal charges will be filed against three New Mexico police officers who went to the wrong address while responding to a domestic violence call last year and fatally shot the armed homeowner who came to the door, state officials said.

The New Mexico Department of Justice said in a report on Friday that a review by Seth W. Stoughton, a former police officer and professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, had concluded that the Farmington police officers did not use excessive force when they shot Robert Dotson, 52, at about 11:45 p.m. on April 5, 2023.

The department said it had also examined police reports, witness statements, videos and photographs.

The report acknowledged that the officers — Daniel Estrada, Dylan Goodluck and Waylon Wasson — went to the wrong address: 5305 Valley View Avenue, instead of 5308 Valley View Avenue. Once there, Officer Wasson knocked several times on the front door and said “police department” once and “Farmington police” twice, the report said.

“Unexpectedly, Mr. Dotson opened the front door and storm door, then partially exited the house while raising a firearm into a firing position and pointed in the direction of the officers,” the report said. “At that moment, Professor Stoughton concluded that Mr. Dotson presented an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm to the officers, and all three reasonably fired their weapons, acting within the bounds of accepted police practices.”

After the officers shot Mr. Dotson, his wife, Kimberly Dotson, fired at the officers from the doorway with a handgun, investigators said, and Officers Estrada and Wasson fired back. She put down the gun once she realized that they were police officers. Ms. Dotson and the officers were not harmed.

Professor Stoughton found that Officers Estrada and Wasson did not use excessive force when they shot at Ms. Dotson because the shots she had fired “created a second imminent threat of death or great bodily harm to the officers,” and the officers “once again reasonably returned fire,” the report said.

Given Professor Stoughton’s findings, the state would be unable to meet the standard of proof necessary to support criminal charges, the report said. “As such, the New Mexico Department of Justice considers this matter closed,” it said.

Thomas M. Clark, a lawyer for the Dotson family, said on Wednesday that the family was devastated.

“They see this as a slap in the face to an innocent man who was killed in his home when the police weren’t supposed to be at his doorstep,” Mr. Clark said.

Mr. Dotson, a mechanic who worked on trucks and heavy machinery, was blinded by the officers’ flashlights when he opened the front door and had “no idea” that the people there were police officers, Mr. Clark said.

“This should be pretty frightening to anyone in New Mexico,” Mr. Clark said. “You open your door late at night, and you happen to have a gun because you don’t know who’s in your front yard, and it’s open season on you.”

Luis E. Robles, a lawyer who is representing the officers and the city of Farmington in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the Dotson family, said the officers “had confidence that the shooting was lawful and are now relieved” that the New Mexico Department of Justice has agreed.

“These officers did not do anything to cause Mr. Dotson to fear for his safety,” Mr. Robles said on Wednesday. “So when he answered the door with a gun, he gave the officers no realistic choice but to use deadly force.”

In a statement, the Farmington police chief, Steve Hebbe, expressed appreciation for the New Mexico Department of Justice and its “exhaustive look at this case.”

“At the same time, this was extremely tragic,” Chief Hebbe said, “and I continue to say that I am extremely sorry for the Dotson family’s loss.”

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