Officer fires at minivan in traffic stop chaos

RUSSELL CONTRERAS, Associated Press
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two New Mexico state police officers are under investigation and a mother and her 14-year-old son are facing charges after a routine traffic stop turned to chaos when the teen physically confronted one officer and another officer fired shots at a minivan carrying children.

Details of the recent stop emerged when KRQE-TV obtained video from the dashboard camera of the police cruiser that pulled over the family of six for speeding near the northern New Mexico tourist town of Taos.

The footage taken Oct. 28 shows driver Oriana Farrell, 39, disobeying the officer’s orders, including driving off after being told to take her keys out of the vehicle.

The Memphis, Tenn., woman was pulled over again and the situation escalated as she pleaded for lenience while refusing the officer’s orders to get out of the van.

She eventually exits the vehicle, but tries to get back in as the officer, identified as Tony DeTavis in police records, tries to restrain her.

The TV station’s edited video shows at least two of her five children get out of the vehicle to confront DeTavis in her defense.

Farrell ushered the smaller child back into the van as the 14-year-old struggled with the officer. The teen got back in the vehicle and shut the door after DeTavis appears to pull out his stun gun.

At that point, backup arrived as DeTavis bashed out the minivan’s front passenger window with his nightstick and another officer, identified in records as Elias Montoya, shot at the vehicle as it drove off. Montoya wrote that he fired his weapon “at the left rear tire in an attempt to immobilize the vehicle.”

The mother and teen were arrested in front of a hotel after a brief chase. She has since been released and faces charges of child abuse, fleeing and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia for a pair of marijuana pipes found in the van. Farrell was released on bond.

It’s unclear whether the 14-year-old remains in custody. He faces charges of battery of an officer. His name has not been released.

DeTavis wrote in the police report that Montoya “later bought the entire family McDonald’s during the booking process.”

Farrell’s attorney Alan Maestas did not immediately return a phone call to The Associated Press. Maestas, however, suggested to a judge last week that Farrell was acting out of fear for the safety of her children.

Eighth Judicial District Attorney Donald Gallegos the situation could have been avoided if Farrell had followed the officer’s instructions. “She wouldn’t do the simple act of just signing a ticket,” Gallegos said.

In a statement, New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said his department will conduct a “full and thorough review” of the shooting and traffic stop.

Kassetas said he has seen the video and has “concerns relating to the conduct of the officer who discharged his firearm.”

He said the department “will take swift action” if the investigation determines the officer acted improperly.

Gallegos said based on what he’s seen from the video, the district attorney’s office will not pursue criminal charges against the officers. But he said that could change if state police present more evidence.

On the video, the initial officer could be heard telling Farrell she had been driving 71 mph in a 55 mph zone.

 

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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