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N.M. State Trooper Who Shot at Van During Pursuit Will Not Be Charged

November 21, 2013  | 

Taos County (N.M.) District Attorney Donald Gallegos has decided not to pursue charges against a New Mexico State Patrol officer who opened fire on a van during a wild traffic stop and pursuit last month.

"[Additional] information could come in, but at this preliminary stage, what I've viewed and what I've reviewed I don't see any criminal charges against any of the officers," Gallegos told KASA TV

In late October Officer Tony DeTavis pulled over Oriana Farrell for doing 71 mph in a 55 mph zone south of Taos. Dash cam video shows the officer and the motorist arguing over the citation, the motorist driving away when the officer went back to his car, the officer stopping Farrell again and attempting to arrest her, Farrell’s 14-year-old son assaulting the officer, back-up officers arriving, Trooper Elias Montoya opening fire on the van as Farrell drives away again, and finally officers taking Farrell into custody in front of a Taos hotel.

Farrell was arrested for child abuse, fleeing, and possession of drug paraphernalia—two marijuana pipes police claim she had in the minivan. Her son was charged with battery on an officer and resisting arrest.

Gallegos says he fully intends to pursue the case against Farrell and her son.

NMSP is investigating the actions of the officers.

In Montoya's State Police report, he says he was shooting at the left rear tire of the van to keep it from fleeing.


Related Story:

Video: Officers Investigated Over Wild N.M. Traffic Stop

Comments (17)

Displaying 1 - 17 of 17

Boston @ 11/21/2013 4:06 PM

This is wrong! I know I will receive many emails from people who disapprove of my position. I was not present and the attached details seem still in favor of not firing your weapon. The trooper(s) life was not in any danger. She should have been restrained immediately. The situation escalated out of the Troopers control. But firing a weapon was 100% incorrect. Taos County,NM is dam lucky no one was shot or killed by a Trooper's bullet. A large lawsuit surely would have changed the story. I see additional training on the horizon.

Rollo thomassi @ 11/21/2013 6:55 PM

Obviously the NM State Police and the Prosecutor know nothing about the US Supreme Court's holding in Graham v. Conner. We know if one of the trooper's rounds had struck one or more of those kids, the conversation would be quite different. It shouldn't take an uglier outcome to get the point across about the impropriety of the trooper's actions. A screwed up traffic stop and supreme stupidness by a violator does not justify this. This circumstance points out the truth about the rarity of a successful outcome when one shoots at the tires of a moving vehicle. I see lots of trooper training, a hefty suspension for some of the troopers, calls for a federal inquiry, and a large civil payout on the horizon. And, unfortunately, others will use this to try to make the point that the violator was justified in being fearful of the troopers. No winners in this no matter how it goes. Foreseeable and therefore preventable. And yes, I am a 32 year veteran...what?!!

DaveS55 @ 11/21/2013 11:03 PM

There will be lessons in this for sure (Tactics)...Rollo thomassi you are quoting the wrong case law "Tennessee v Garner, 471 US 1 (1985)". The trooper is a rookie hit the street June 2013 - I think the DA (8th-Taos) saw this-as tough one, because I would think you would have to prove that the officer’s actions were criminally negligent and actually endangered others to a significant degree. To be honest here - She had 2 chances to do the right thing and she failed. Still, the fact remains that none of this would have happened if had cooperated with the police. It’s obvious that this upstanding mother didn’t care about the safety of her kids or other motorists, or she wouldn’t have put so many lives in jeopardy by running. There a traffic code statute for- The Non-Resident Violator Compact. I do agree there will be be some refresher and focus on stops and especially Van stops which are a higher unknown risk. Remember what the editors editorial stated October 2013 - about Media.

DaveS55 @ 11/21/2013 11:07 PM

More today:

Arby @ 11/22/2013 5:16 AM

All things considered, I can go with the DA on this one, though I also feel confident NMSP will take some action when they have completed their investigation. At the very least - retraining, but probably some suspension time in there too. I do hope they come down hard on "mom." MJ pipes in the van and all...

Boston @ 11/22/2013 6:19 AM

The mom is no angel but it did not justify a Trooper shooting at the van. This was not a $100K drug bust nor was she moving illegal firearms. She is not a Cartel Kingpin. She's nothing more than a person with very poor judgement and zero respect for law enforcement. A routine stop not so routine! Radio communications can still out run???

OneOldCop @ 11/22/2013 6:20 AM

Thomassi is correct, the case law under which this should be reviewed is Connoir, not Graham. In Connor, SCOTUS made it clear that uses of force are seizures and thus should be reviewed under 4th Amendment standards. In regards to people not signing tickets, why do we get so upset? Give them a copy, then go see the judge and explain what happened. If they don't show for court, have the judge issue an AW and go kick their door in and take them to jail. Why get your panties in a wad because someone disagrees with you on their getting a citation? Most of the negative caselaw we have to deal with is spawned out of exactly these types of situations where officer with little to no self-control get their egos bruised and act out.

Johnny Law @ 11/22/2013 8:48 AM

As I stsatd in the original article, no charges would be filed against the officer for shooting at the tires. No charges are filed against an officer when deploying spike strips which result in the car losing control and wrecking. Not the best decision, but nothing illegal. Move on!

Boston @ 11/22/2013 12:06 PM

@Johnny Law Huh! Spike trips and bullets are the same? We know where the spike strips are going to end up. Nobody knows where the bullet is going to end up.

Jack abamoff @ 11/22/2013 2:48 PM

They need to review their training before they get a 7 figure lawsuit.

Jack abamoff @ 11/22/2013 2:52 PM

Whenever you shoot a weapon there are deadly unintended outcomes that can occur. The risk is not justified here. His bullet could have hit oncoming traffic.

Jack abamoff @ 11/22/2013 3:01 PM

Bullets hit pavement, tires, etc. and rebound in unpredictable ways.

DaveS55 @ 11/22/2013 6:28 PM

Lawful stop on a two lane road 518 that goes into Taos...Watch the entire Video the initial officer stopping the traffic violator who was also driving on expired driver's license on a cross-country trip with family. Keep in mind the van typ Kia which had a fron driver's door, side passenger door, two sliding doors on both sides VAN). The patrolman went way beyond trying to help this lady and her children and was going back to unit when she drove off to check items and better radio contact and terminal in unit...He did call for back-up and it takes time in the vast area's of New Mexico. All I am saying is let's wait here and let the department do their investigation. These are canyon road two lane only spike stripes could cause the vehicle to over the drink entire family.
Still, the fact remains that none of this would have happened if she had cooperated with the police. It’s obvious that this upstanding mother didn’t care about the safety of her kids or other motorists. Lessons Yes

James @ 11/23/2013 1:28 AM

I have to agree with Boston.

Boston @ 11/23/2013 3:03 AM

@bw I suppose your perfect and have never have done anything wrong in life. The "THEY" do their job to protect jackasses like you. Your comment is childish and reflects your IQ.

Boston @ 11/23/2013 6:49 PM

Who signs citations/tickets? Not happening in Massachusetts, here's your traffic violation have a nice day and please obey our traffic laws.

Troop @ 11/24/2013 7:51 AM

BW stay off the grown up website and go back to watching your Beiber videos.

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