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New Mexico

NMSP chief: ‘Mistakes’ led to officer’s traffic killing

Darian Jarrott

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

State Police Chief Tim Johnson admits his company made errors and will have carried out extra to stop one among its personal from being gunned down in a traffic cease in southern New Mexico final 12 months.

Other state police personnel have beforehand pointed to missteps that led to Officer Darian Jarrott’s demise – nevertheless it has by no means been stated squarely by somebody as senior as Johnson.

It has been 21 months since Jarrott’s demise, however the chief stated an inner investigation into the case has but to be launched.

In an Aug. 8 assertion, Johnson’s lawyer Sam Bregman, who’s representing Jarrott’s widow, stated the 28-year-old may nonetheless be alive at present if issues had been dealt with otherwise.

“I think everyone made some mistakes,” Johnson stated, in accordance to a transcript of the assertion. At one level, he testified that Jarrott ought to by no means have come into contact with Omar Cueva, who used meth, was identified to carry a gun, and beforehand stated he “wouldn’t go back to jail.”

“The jury will be hearing the same words from the chief of state police in a few months, it’s probably going to cost the state millions and it should because Darian Jarrott is a New Mexico hero who left four young children behind,” Bregman stated the Journal on Friday.

A state police spokesman stated the company “generally does not comment on pending litigation and will not comment on this case at this time.”

But Johnson issued a press release on Friday noting that he and his division are nonetheless reeling from the tragedy.

New Mexico State Police Chief Tim Johnson

“The department and I are still very saddened by the loss of our brother,” he stated. “We think of Officer Jarrott and his family every day.”

Bregman additionally filed two federal lawsuits over Jarrott’s demise, one towards Johnson and Sgt. Mark Madrid, Jarrott’s supervisor on the time, and one other towards the federal authorities.

investigating drug trafficking

The case started when HSI brokers wished to arrest Cueva after he bought giant portions of fentanyl and meth to an secret agent in Deming. Hoping to protect their whistleblower, HSI requested state police help in apprehending Cueva as he headed to Las Cruces for a drug buy on February 4, 2021.

The lawsuit alleges Jarrott was unaware of Cueva’s dangerousness when he arrested the 39-year-old convicted drug supplier on the behest of Sgt. Madrid. Cueva, who was the topic of a BOLO (be-on-the-lookout) alert, fatally shot officers alongside Interstate 10 and was subsequently killed in a shootout that injured one other officer in Las Cruces.

Johnson informed Bregman that since Jarrott’s demise, he hasn’t spoken to anybody at HSI about “how to make sure this never happens again.” He additionally stated that no inner affairs inquiry had been launched into the matter, however he deliberate to open one.

Johnson famous that Madrid retired in August and for that motive do not want to cooperate.

Before retiring, Madrid stated in a separate assertion that state police informed him he had carried out nothing fallacious and that he had not been disciplined in any approach. Madrid stated it believed the traffic disruption ought to have been handled like “any other”.

Johnson strongly disagreed, saying it was a “high risk stop”.

Sam Bregman

He informed Bregman within the assertion that Madrid ought to have additionally requested extra data from HSI and requested extra questions on Cueva. He stated there was no state police coverage on how to deal with a BOLO, however stated — of HSI’s operational plan to arrest Cueva — “if I read this, I would sound the alarm.”

This plan concerned a closely armed HSI tactical unit with a paramedic on standby and individually two State Police officers briefed on Cueva and parked alongside I-10 just a few miles from Jarrott, prepared to cease him.

Johnson testified that Jarrott and Madrid had been unaware of the involvement of the opposite two state cops by way of “communications.” Bregman requested whose duty it’s for company employees to “communicate appropriately with one another.”

Johnson replied, “Everyone.”

State police had been invited to attend an HSI briefing on the plan to seize Cueva, however the officer didn’t attend. Johnson testified that the officer ought to have been current on the briefing.

He informed Bregman there ought to have been higher communication from HSI — and internally between state police personnel — and “better decision-making on the part of everyone.”

When Bregman requested if Madrid’s conduct within the incident was acceptable as a state police supervisor, Johnson replied “no.” He testified that Madrid “should have asked more questions… and it should have been handled differently”.

This screenshot of State Police dashcam video reveals Omar Cueva (left) with an AR-15 rifle and State Police Officer Darian Jarrott simply earlier than he was shot and killed on February 4, 2021. (Source: New Mexico State Police)

Johnson testified that he would by no means have despatched Jarrott, who began out as a traffic officer and acquired no normal police coaching, to cease Cueva alone. He informed Bregman, “We should try to have a better plan.”

Johnson testified that he thought Jarrott initially dealt with traffic management effectively, however was “out of tools” when Cueva stalled making an attempt to get out of the truck.

Lapel video confirmed Jarrott remaining informal and by no means drawing his gun, even after recognizing the rifle that Cueva would use to shoot him moments later. Jarrott requested Cueva for the rifle however allowed him to get out of the truck with him.

“In retrospect, it should have been a criminal offense,” Johnson testified, describing it as pulling Cueva out of the car with orders from cowl and “probably with a gun drawn.”

Bregman requested, “If those things had been done, Officer Jarrott could be alive today, right?” Johnson replied, “I wish he was,” however then replied, “Yes.”

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