New Mexico police officers realised they were at the wrong address just moments before the front door opened and they fatally shot the armed homeowner, then exchanged gunfire with his wife, according to newly released body camera video of the April 5 shooting.
Robert Dotson, 52, was killed in Farmington, a city of 47,000 people in the southwestern US state, after officers on their way to a domestic violence call went to the wrong house.
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The Farmington Police Department released several videos on Friday, including footage captured by body cameras worn by the three officers who fired their weapons.
“All of us – the men and women of the Farmington Police Department – recognise the severity of this incident,” Police Chief Steven Hebbe said in a statement.
“Once again, we wish to express our condolences to the Dotson family, and as your chief of police, I wish to convey how very sorry I am that this tragedy occurred,” Hebbe said.
An attorney representing the Dotson family could not be reached for comment.
The video shows one officer knocking three times on a door decorated with an Easter bunny and announcing that police are present. While they wait, two officers discuss whether they have the correct address and chuckle when they realise a mistake has been made.
One officer then curses and backs away, seconds before the door opens. An officer yells, “Hands up!” and the video shows Dotson raising what appears to be a handgun before officers open fire, hitting him while he is in the doorway.
Dotson’s wife can soon be heard screaming, “Oh, my God!” One officer mutters, “Please don’t,” before another volley of shots take place. Authorities have said she fired in the direction of the officers, who returned fire without striking her.
Dotson’s wife, who did not realise she was firing at police, has not been charged with a crime, authorities said. Three children were upstairs at the time of the shooting, according to the released video.
Police have not released the names of the officers involved, who have been placed on paid leave while the state police investigate the incident.
The Dotson family and their attorney watched the video prior to its public release, Hebbe said.
About 40 percent of US households have guns, according to the Pew Research Center. An estimated 44,000 gun-related deaths took place in the United States last year, about half of them murder cases, accidents and self-defence, and half of them suicides, according to the Gun Violence Archive database.
It showed that 14 people have been shot or killed this year in New Mexico in what the archive calls “officer-involved incidents”.
More than 5,000 people in the US have died of firearm-related violence in 2023, according to the archive.