LORDSBURG, New Mexico — The family of a New Mexico State Police officer fatally shot in the line of duty in February has filed a tort claim notice with the state seeking damages, one of the first steps in filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
The attorney for Darian Jarrott's widow and family contends the officer was told to conduct a dangerous traffic stop without backup, leading to his "ambush" death.
The NMSP recently provided ABC-7 with dashcam video of the Feb. 4 shooting in southern New Mexico that showed Jarrott pulling over 39-year-old Omar Cueva.
The two men talked for several minutes and then, the officer saw a gun in the pickup truck.
"Do you mind if I take it off you, for my safety," Jarrott said. The two men walked toward the back of the truck. Cueva then raised the gun and shot the officer multiple times, including in the head.
Cueva fled the scene in his vehicle and fired on officers during the pursuit, police said. The chase stretched along Interstate 10 from Deming to Las Cruces, where officers again exchanged gunshots with Cueva and fatally hit him.
Police said Jarrott was helping Homeland Security agents with a narcotics investigation when he pulled Cueva over, but they have not yet released additional details on the investigation or Jarrott’s role.
Sam Bregman, the attorney for Jarrott's family, said that the shooting was an "ambush."
“Why did they ask him to do a stop when they know (Cueva) has semi-automatic weapons and drugs in large quantities in the vehicle?” Bregman said. “Homeland Security agents showed up within 30 seconds after this horrific shooting wearing tactical gear. They knew exactly the person they were dealing with. Officer Jarrott didn't and they never told him."
A spokesman for NMSP said because of the pending litigation, they cannot comment. But Mark Soriano added that an investigation in Jarrott's death "is active and ongoing. The investigation is being led by the New Mexico State Police Investigations Bureau.”
Meantime, Homeland Security spokesperson Leticia Zamarripa said the fact that the federal agency also isn’t commenting “should not be construed as agreement with or stipulation to any of the allegations.”
She added: “As part of the Department of Homeland Security’s homeland security mission, our trained law enforcement professionals adhere to the Department’s mission and values, and uphold our laws while continuing to provide the nation with safety and security.”