Three police officers were involved in the April shooting death of a Farmington man after responding to the wrong house after a domestic violence complaint. The New Mexico Department of Justice has chosen not to seek charges against them.
The New Mexico Department of Justice announced its judgment in a letter dated January 26. The decision was reached after reviewing the shooting death of 52-year-old Robert Dotson, who was shot in the doorway of his Farmington home last year when police opened fire on him due to the presence of a firearm.
Deputy Attorney General Greer E. Staley acknowledged in a letter that the DOJ determined the officers “did not use excessive force under the circumstances when they discharged their weapons” and that “the officers’ initial approach to the Dotson home, although they erroneously approached the wrong house, was reasonable, appropriate and consistent with generally accepted police practices.”
Professor Seth Stoughton of the University of South Carolina’s Joseph F. Rice School of Law and a former police officer helped the department with its inquiry.
September saw the filing of a wrongful death and other claims by Dotson’s family against the Farmington Police Department in the U.S. District Court of New Mexico.
The family of Dotson filed a formal complaint in court stating that at 11:30 p.m. on April 5, police arrived at their home and began knocking. Taking his weapon from the apex of the fridge, Dotson proceeded to unlock the front door. The claim states that “police vehicles were parked down the street and did not have their lights on.”
Based on the accusation, three officers who were stationed outside the door promptly began firing their weapons. Twelve rounds struck Dotson. According to the complaint, his wife Kimberly came down the stairs in her robe to see what had happened, and the police shot another 19 rounds at her, but they missed.
Shortly after the event, the public safety agency announced that Dotson’s wife had drawn a revolver and opened fire as she appeared from the doorway. This had provoked the cops to return fire.
Authorities in New Mexico stated that the officers’ “approach, knock on the door and announcement at the incorrect address did not foreseeably create an unnecessarily dangerous situation.”
“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 letter adds.
“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.”
Kimberly Dotson “created a second imminent threat of death or great bodily harm to the officers” when she fired rounds at them, according to the letter.
According to Staley, the state cannot produce sufficient evidence to prosecute the cops for excessive force, even after taking the results into consideration. “Therefore, we have determined that no criminal charges can be sustained under these circumstances,” added Staley.
A representative of the Dotson family voiced their displeasure with the results. “One of the troubling things about the decision not to prosecute the police is the feeling that you may not be safe in your own home, because certainly, Mr. Dotson was not,” attorney Doug Perrin told local CBS affiliate station KRQE.
Chief Steve Hebbe of the Farmington Police Department expressed gratitude to “the AG’s office and their exhaustive look at this case. At the same time, this was extremely tragic, and I continue to say that I am extremely sorry for the Dotson family’s loss.”
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