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New Mexico

Family of slain NMSP officer plans lawsuit over his ‘ambush’ death

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.”

Crime / News / Top Stories / Video

Associated Press

KVIA ABC-7

Saul Saenz

El Paso native Saul Saenz is a veteran reporter who also hosts ABC-7 Extra.

Comments

5 Comments

  1. I cannot believe they never told him who he was dealing with, 100% negligence. If you watch the video and listen closely he never saw the AR till it was pointed at him, he saw the pistol in Cuevas waistband and was trying to secure that gun. They should pay his widow and kids a billion dollars for their eff up…. real shoddy police work

  2. The widow and family of Darian Jorrott has every right to demand that something be done about the reckless behavior of the federal agents involved in this fiasco. If lodging a multi-million dollar lawsuit is the only way to keep the FBI, HSI, DEA etc from doing their own dangerous and dirty work, then by all means do it.

    The fact that this happened was not a surprise to those on the inside, but rather inevitable. Federal agents (1811s) commonly use local law enforcement officers to make traffic stops for them when they are working a case because they (the 1811s) do not have the proper authority to make their own traffic stops. In addition, these federal “Special Agents” have to rely on law enforcement agencies with marked units (clearly identifiable police cars) to make traffic stops for them because marked units have emergency lights and equipment and the feds don’t.

    Most if not all of these traffic stops are what is known as “pretext stops”, that is, traffic stops made by a police agency for little or in some cases, no real reason (pretext) so that the target of the fed’s investigation can be subjected to further scrutiny that would otherwise not be available to the federal investigative agency. Every federal agency with investigative authority does this; however the more responsible ones alert the local police agency or department of at least some basic information concerning the target or subject of said traffic stop.

    Once the police agency has made the bogus traffic stop; the federal agency will most likely break off and allow the local agency to bust the subject with whatever contraband he has or alternatively, the feds may choose to “interview” the target after arrest. The incentive for local agencies to make pretext traffic stops for the feds is simply for the bust, usually drugs, and for the forfeiture of property and/or money associated with such an arrest.

    The feds use this method/local police because the practice allows them to scrutinize a target or have him arrested with some type of contraband, but they don’t have to make the arrest and all that goes with it. If fact, unlike the local police agencies, the feds typically cannot make arrests predicated on probable cause (PC), but rather have to consult an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) to do most anything, but especially when making an arrest. This is a laborious and often times burdensome process for the feds because most AUSAs are reluctant authorize “law enforcement “action unless the action is a slam dunk with little to no liability (but that’s another story altogether).

    Aside from the bogus reasons to make traffic stops, there is really nothing wrong with using real law enforcement officers with marked units to bust or further scrutinize targets of investigations. The only real problem with this routine practice is when the federal agency does not fully brief or fully disclose to the local police what and who they are dealing with. Apparently that was the case here and has been in many other cases. The difference is that this time it went south very quickly and a state policeman lost his life needlessly.

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