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Saturday, May 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Police Sued for Shooting|at Van Full of Children

SANTA FE, N.M. (CN) - A family sued New Mexico in a case that made headlines when a state policeman shot at a minivan full of five children as their mother drove away from him.

Oriana Lee Farrell was driving on a remote stretch of New Mexico Highway 518 when she was pulled over twice in short order by State Police Officer Tony DeTavis.

Video from DeTavis' dashcam shows the escalation from traffic stop to shooting at a vehicle full of children. Farrell is clearly belligerent during the 18-minute video, which shows a chaotic situation as her children get out of the car in the midst of officers.

Farrell claims the video does not show that DeTavis "excessively grabbed at and impermissibly touched" her during the second stop, while she was inside the car.

The video does show Farrell stepping out of the vehicle at DeTavis's behest, and the officer grabbing for her arm and hair when she tried to get back into the van.

Farrell claims it was this assault that prompted her oldest son, 14, to step out onto the road and try to intervene. After a scuffle, DeTavis pointed a Taser at the boy while he ran back into the van.

When co-defendant Officers Anthony Luna and Elias Montoya arrived, DeTavis tried to break the van's window because the doors were locked. The video shows the officer pounding the van window repeatedly. It show Montoya drawing his sidearm and shooting as the van drives away.

In the Oct. 28 lawsuit in Santa Fe County Court, Farrell claims that fear for her safety prompted her to drive away.

She drove to Taos with the officers in close pursuit. Video shows her weaving in and out of traffic and using center turn lanes to move around slower vehicles, before pulling in to a hotel parking area where she was arrested.

Farrell reached a plea agreement in July this year for a conditional discharge.

She seeks punitive damages for herself and her children, for excessive force, civil rights violations, assault, failure to train, malicious abuse of process, and negligent hiring and supervision.

Named as defendants are the three officers and the state police.

None of the parties or their attorneys responded to requests for comment.

The family is represented by Alan Maestas, in Taos.

Montoya was fired after the shooting.

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