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Police won't be charged in fatal shooting of a New Mexico man after responding to the wrong address

In this image taken from body camera video provided by the Farmington Police Department, a police officer knocks on the door of the wrong address in response to a domestic violence call, in Farmington, N.M., late April 5, 2023. Moments later, the homeowner was fatally shot by police after appearing at the door armed with a handgun. (Farmington Police Department via AP)
AP
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Farmington Police Department
In this image taken from body camera video provided by the Farmington Police Department, a police officer knocks on the door of the wrong address in response to a domestic violence call, in Farmington, N.M., late April 5, 2023. Moments later, the homeowner was fatally shot by police after appearing at the door armed with a handgun. (Farmington Police Department via AP)

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Three Farmington police officers accused of fatally shooting an armed homeowner after going to the wrong house on a domestic violence call won’t face prosecution, authorities said Tuesday.

New Mexico Department of Justice officials said a review showed police made a reasonable attempt to contact the people inside the victim’s home and that the officers who approached the wrong address “did not foreseeably create an unnecessarily dangerous situation.”

The report also said there no was basis for pursuing criminal charges.

Police body camera footage showed Robert Dotson, 52, pointed a firearm at the officers on the night of April 5 and “their use of force was appropriate," authorities added.

Mark Curnutt, an attorney for Dotson’s family, said police fired more than 20 rounds at his client “despite never being fired at nor even having a firearm pointed at any of the officers.”

Dotson “committed no crime, was not a suspect and answered the door after police went to the wrong house," Curnutt said. "Nothing can return Robert to his family and it appears nothing will be done to hold these officers accountable.”

The family filed a lawsuit last fall in federal court, alleging that Dotson and his family were deprived of their civil rights when the officers in the northwestern New Mexico city mistakenly showed up at their home that night.

Prosecutors said they met with Dotson’s family to explain their decision and show them the report by Seth Stoughton, a former police officer who now is a tenured professor at the University of South Carolina’s Joseph F. Rice School of Law.

Stoughton is a nationally recognized expert in police use of force and has rendered opinions both for and against officers in state and federal cases, prosecutors said.

Curnutt said Stoughton’s report relied heavily on the initial New Mexico State Police investigation, raising concerns about the validity of information provided to state prosecutors.

According to New Mexico State Police, the Farmington officers were supposed to be responding to a house across the street.

Instead, they knocked on the Dotsons' front door and announced themselves as police officers. When there was no answer, they asked dispatchers to call the person who reported the disturbance and have them come to the front door.

Body camera footage then showed Dotson opening the screen door armed with a handgun, which was when officers retreated and fired, police said.

Dotson’s wife Kimberly also was armed and shot at officers before realizing who they were and putting the weapon down. She was not injured and neither were any of the officers.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said Wednesday that Dotson's death and others at the hands of officers in New Mexico demonstrate the need for statewide police reform.

Barron Jones, the group’s investigation and research manager, said Dotson’s case highlights the need for rigorous standards regarding use of force.

“New Mexico has one of the highest per capita rate of killings by police in the nation,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”