New Mexico cops not charged in fatal police shooting at wrong house

Three New Mexico police officers will not be charged for their role in the fatal shooting of a Farmington man in April when cops responded to the wrong house.

As Blaze News previously reported, officers with the Farmington Police Department responded to a domestic violence call around 11:30 p.m. on April 5, 2023. However, police “erroneously approached the wrong house,” where 52-year-old Robert Dotson resided.

Police bodycam footage shows the three cops knock on the front door of Dotson’s house and announce themselves. After no response, the officers are heard on bodycam video debating whether they have the correct address or not. An officer is heard laughing on the bodycam video about the potential mix-up.

Moments later, Dotson opens the front door while dressed in a robe and holding a handgun, as seen on police bodycam video.

A cop screams, “Heads up!”

Then all three officers opened fire on Dotson, who was later pronounced dead at the scene.

CBS News reported, “Dotson was hit by 12 bullets. His wife, Kimberly, wearing just her robe, came down the stairs to find out what happened, the complaint says, and the officers fired an additional 19 bullets at her but missed.

The New Mexico Department of Justice accused Kimberly Dotson of firing gunshots toward the officers, which “created a second imminent threat of death or great bodily harm to the officers.”

On Jan. 26, Deputy Attorney General Greer E. Staley released a letter declaring that “the State would be unable to meet this standard of proof under the circumstances of this case,” and “determined that no criminal charges can be sustained under these circumstances” and that he considered the case to be “closed.”

To determine culpability, Staley enlisted the services of Seth Stoughton, a former police officer and tenured professor at the University of South Carolina Joseph F. Rice School of Law.

“Professor Stoughton provided a detailed report concluding that, under the circumstances, Officers Daniel Estrada, Dylan Goodluck, and Waylon Wasson did not use excessive force when they discharged their weapons and shot Mr. Dotson,” the letter reads. “His analysis also found that Officers Estrada and Wasson did not use excessive force under the circumstances when they discharged their weapons toward Mrs. Dotson.”

Stoughton said that the cops knocking at the door of the wrong house “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 states. “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 reviewing all evidence “comprehensively,” the New Mexico Department of Justice determined that the “officers’ actions were consistent with a lawful use of force because a peace officer may justifiably use deadly physical force when threatened with serious harm or deadly force.”

In September 2023, Dotson’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico against the city of Farmington and the Farmington Police Department.

The lawsuit accused the city of failing to properly train its police officers in the use of force and claimed the three officers “acted unreasonably” and “applied excessive, unnecessary force.”

The suit also argued that the deadly police shooting deprived the father of two of his state constitutional rights, including the right to enjoy life and liberty.

Doug Perrin, an attorney for the Dotson family, told KRQE this week, “One of the disturbing 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.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico reacted to this week’s decision by saying the fatal shooting demonstrates “the need for statewide police reform.”

“New Mexicans should be able to trust that New Mexico law enforcement officials will do all they can to ensure their interactions with members of the public don’t end in a tragedy,” said ACLU of New Mexico investigation and research manager Barron Jones.

“We hope law enforcement officials use this tragic event as a teaching moment and exercise due diligence when responding to calls and require de-escalation and rigorous use of force standards,” Jones said of yhe deadly police shooting. “New Mexico has one of the highest per capita rate of killings by police in the nation.”

Farmington Police Department Chief Steve Hebbe said in a statement, “I appreciate 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.”

All three officers remained employed by the city of Farmington and returned to work after the fatal shooting.

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(WARNING: Graphic content)

Bodycam footage released after New Mexico officers responded to wrong home, fatally shot

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