A New Mexico family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Farmington and three Farmington police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Robert Dotson while responding to a domestic violence call at the wrong house.
Attorneys for both sides have given dueling narratives of what happened around 11:30 p.m. April 5, when Farmington police responded to the incorrect address and shot and killed Dotson, who answered the door armed with a gun.
When Dotson, 52, pushed the door open he “appeared to grip the weapon and then point it at one of the officers,” Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said after the shooting, citing body-camera video.
The lawsuit claims the officers “applied excessive, unnecessary force and shot Robert Dotson to death while he was standing in his doorway.”
Their “extreme, unreasonable actions … demonstrate an utter and reckless disregard and conscious indifference for the rights of Plaintiffs and the life of Robert Dotson,” the suit says.
Further, it says “the City of Farmington failed to properly train and monitor the Defendant officers in proper use of force.
Dotson’s family is suing for unspecified damages.
The officers were identified in the lawsuit as Daniel Estrada, Dylan Goodluck and Waylon Wasson. They were put on administrative leave after the shooting.
“This case is undeniably tragic. Not only for the Dotson family but also for the officers,” Luis Robles, the attorney for the three officers and the City of Farmington, told CNN. “The officers didn’t go to the Dotson house with any intention to use deadly force. But because Mr. Dotson pointed a gun at the officers, that gave them no other choice but to shoot him.”
Immediately after the shooting, the New Mexico Department of Public Safety announced it had opened an investigation into the incident and would forward the results of its inquiry to the local district attorney for review. CNN has reached out to state police for information on the status of their investigation. CNN also has reached out to the 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
The police bodycam footage shows officers standing outside the front door of Dotson’s home, asking a dispatcher to confirm the house number.
After no one answers the door, police start walking away. Dotson answers the door with a gun in his hand, and all three officers open fire, New Mexico police said, citing the body-camera footage.
“I am just heartbroken by the circumstances surrounding this. Mr. Dotson was not the subject of the call,” Hebbe said in a video posted on Facebook after the shooting. “This ending is just unbelievably tragic. I’m extremely sorry that we’re in this position.”
Dotson and his wife, Kimberly Dotson, “believed that they heard a knock” on their door so Robert Dotson “put on his robe and went downstairs to answer the knock. For personal protection, he picked up the handgun which was kept on top of the refrigerator in the Dotson residence, not knowing what he might encounter at that late hour,” the lawsuit states.
“Mr. Dotson opened his front door and was blinded by police flashlights. The police did not announce themselves, and Mr. Dotson had no idea who was in his yard shining bright lights at him,” it continues.
Upon hearing the gunshots, Kimberly Dotson came downstairs, also clad in a robe, to find her husband lying in the doorway bleeding, the lawsuit says.
“She fired outside at whoever had shot her husband. The Defendant Police officers then fired at Mrs. Dotson – another 19 rounds. Fortunately, she was not hit,” the lawsuit says.
In a statement at the time, state police said Kimberly Dotson “put the gun down and complied” when she realized they were police officers.
“The Defendant police officers finally announced themselves, and Kimberly Dotson told them that someone had shot her husband and requested their help,” the lawsuit says. “She did not realize even at that moment that the three police officers had killed her husband.”
The officers handcuffed and detained Kimberly Dotson and her two children and “did not disclose to investigators that they were at the wrong address,” the lawsuit says.