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New Mexico investigates police who shot at van fleeing with mom, kids

November 18, 2013|By John M. Glionna

A routine suburban traffic stop it was not. 

New Mexico State Police officials are investigating the actions of two officers during a recent speeding stop involving a mother and her vanload of children. The stop, which was captured on the cruiser's dashboard camera, was described by police as “an intense 43-minute-long dangerous situation that placed the public at risk.”

Oriana Farrell, 39, of Memphis Tenn., and her 14-year-old son are facing charges in the Oct. 28  incident in the tourist town of Taos.  On the camera video, obtained by a New Mexico TV station, the initial officer can be heard telling Farrell she had been driving 71 mph in a 55 mph zone.

Things quickly turned chaotic, with the teen physically confronting the first officer. The video shows a second state police officer firing shots at the van, which had five children inside, as it drove off. 

In a statement, New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas pledged a thorough review of the incident, saying he has “concerns relating to the conduct of the officer who discharged his firearm.”

The trouble began after Farrell apparently disobeyed the officer's orders, driving off after being told to take her keys out of the vehicle. Farrell was pulled over again and pleaded for lenience while refusing the officer's orders, the video showed.

And then things got really messy.

Farrell eventually got out of the van but tried to get back in as the officer who initially stopped her tried to restrain her, the video showed. At  least two of the five children got out of the vehicle to confront the officer in her defense. But while Farrell ushered the smaller child back into the van, the 14-year-old struggled with the officer.

The teen shut the van door after the officer appeared to pull out a stun gun. After another state police vehicle arrived as a backup, the first officer smashed out the minivan's front passenger window with his nightstick. The second officer then fired a shot as Farrell drove off.

Farrell and the 14-year-old were arrested after a brief chase. She has since been released and faces charges of child abuse, fleeing and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia for a pair of marijuana pipes found in the van.

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