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Family of man killed by Farmington police seek charges

Apr 20, 2023, 12:07 PM

In this image taken from body camera video provided by the Farmington Police Department, a police o...

In this image taken from body camera video provided by the Farmington Police Department, a police officer knocks on the door of the wrong address in response to a domestic violence call, in Farmington, N.M., late April 5, 2023. Moments later, the homeowner was fatally shot by police after appearing at the door armed with a handgun. (Farmington Police Department via AP)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Farmington Police Department via AP)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The family of a man shot and killed by police in northwestern New Mexico after they responded to the wrong address called Thursday for the officers to be charged with murder and the police chief to resign.

Lawyers for the family of Robert Dotson issued a statement outlining their concerns and planned to talk more about their pursuit of justice at a news conference Thursday afternoon in Farmington. They accused the Farmington Police Department of “wild use of force,” saying there has been a lack of accountability.

“We demand that changes. We want what happened to Robbie to also result in a better community for everyone in Farmington,” attorney Shon Northam said in a statement.

The family wants San Juan County’s district attorney and New Mexico’s attorney general to investigate other alleged excessive force cases involving the department. They also planned to ask federal prosecutors to bring charges against the officers involved in Dotson’s shooting for civil rights violations.

Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe has called the Aug. 5 shooting tragic, saying his agency is trying to understand what happened that night when officers mistakenly approached the Dotson home.

Farmington police did not immediately respond to an email about the family’s demands.

The State Police Investigations Bureau continues to review the case, saying findings will be shared with the district attorney. It remains unclear why the officers responded to the wrong address after getting a domestic violence call from a home across the street.

The district attorney’s office said Thursday it will evaluate the case as soon as state police wrap up their investigation.

The case comes amid an ongoing reckoning across the country over use of force by law enforcement officers. Just weeks ago, prosecutors in California charged seven Highway Patrol officers and a nurse with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the 2020 death of a man who was being restrained following a traffic stop.

Body camera footage released by Farmington police last week showed officers arriving at the home. They walked up to the front door, passing the address that was posted on the home and illuminated by an exterior light. They knocked on the door and announced themselves.

While knocking twice more, the officers can be heard asking a dispatcher to confirm the address and to tell the caller to come to the door. The dispatcher states the address of a home across the street.

Within seconds, Dotson, armed with a handgun, opened the door and the officers immediately began shooting, firing multiple rounds as they backed away. The man can be seen dropping to the ground.

The family’s lawyers said footage from the home’s doorbell camera shows the officers were smirking and laughing before Dotson opened the door and was blinded by the officers’ flashlights.

The video released by police showed a chaotic scene erupting about 4 minutes after officers first arrived at the wrong address. Once the gunfire stopped, sirens could be heard blaring as more officers arrived and Dotson’s wife could be heard pleading with officers that her husband had been shot and needed help after realizing they were outside her home.

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Family of man killed by Farmington police seek charges