Santa Fe, NM – The widow of a New Mexico State Police (NMSP) officer who was executed on the side of the road after stopping a drug dealer in February has sued the New Mexico Department of Public Safety (DPS) over her husband’s murder.
Gabriella Jarrott, who filed her lawsuit in Santa Fe County 1st Judicial District Court on June 11, said DPS acted negligently by sending her husband, NMSP Officer Darian Jarrott, into a high-risk situation with no background information or backup officers on Feb. 4, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
Bodycam footage captured the moment when the suspect, 39-year-old Omar Felix Cueva, fatally shot 28-year-old Officer Jarrott in the head on the side of Interstate 10.
According to NMSP documents, Cueva had been the subject of a federal drug sting involving an undercover agent and a confidential informant shortly before his contact with Officer Jarrott, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) intended to have Cueva taken into custody during a traffic stop so he wouldn’t be tipped off about the setup, according to the paper.
According to the lawsuit, Officer Jarrott’s sergeant and two other NMSP officers were aware of the operation, but Officer Jarrott hadn’t been clued in regarding “how dangerous Cueva was known to be.”
“The reason he was killed was because Homeland Security Investigations valued the identity of a confidential informant more than the life of a state police officer,” Gabriella’s attorney, Sam Bregman, told the Albuquerque Journal. “This all could have been avoided.”
Officer Jarrott was “slaughtered in an ambush that never had to happen,” Bregman said, adding that he will also be filing a lawsuit against HSI.
The lawsuit also alleged that Officer Jarrott didn’t receive the full amount of training afforded to most other NMSP officers because he had previously enforced commercial vehicle violations for DPS and wasn’t required to go through the full law enforcement academy, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
“Jarrott had no substantial training in special tactics or the kind of high-risk operation that was being carried out with respect to Cueva,” the lawsuit alleged, adding that the department was aware of Officer Jarrott’s prior experience and knew he “did not have the proper training or experience to apprehend Cueva,” according to the paper.
Gabriella filed the lawsuit on her children’s behalf as the personal representative of her husband’s estate, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
She was pregnant with Officer Jarrott’s fourth child at the time of his murder, KTSM reported.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, to include the “costs of this action and any other relief the Court deems just and proper,” according to the filing.
The fatal attack occurred on Interstate 10 eastbound near mile marker 101 at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 4, the NMSP said in a press release.
“Homeland Security agents asked Officer Jarrott to pull over a car, when they knew the occupant of the vehicle was a known violent felon with semi-automatic weapons and large amount of drugs inside the vehicle,” Bregman alleged in a tort notice in April. “They did so without telling Officer Jarrott of any of this.”
Police said Cueva had a “violent criminal history,” as well as charges involving methamphetamine and cocaine, FOX News reported.
Bodycam and dashcam footage showed Officer Jarrott as he approached the passenger side of Cueva’s white Chevrolet pickup after pulling him over.
During the cordial conversation, Officer Jarrott explained he had stopped Cueva for a window tint violation, the video showed.
After chatting about his registration and insurance for a moment, the officer asked the driver to come back to his patrol vehicle with him so he could run his information.
“Hey real quick – you have a firearm on you?” Officer Jarrott asked Cueva as the suspect opened the driver’s side door. “You mind if I take it off you for my safety?”
Cueva seemed to agree and exited his pickup with a rifle in his hands, the video showed.
He then immediately turned and opened fire on Officer Jarrott over the bed of the pickup truck.
“Oh s—t!” the officer said, raising his hands to his head.
Cueva fired approximately 10 rounds at Officer Jarrott, hitting him repeatedly.
When the officer fell to the ground, the shooter fired one more round into the back of his head at point-blank range, FOX News reported.
Cueva then jumped back into his pickup and sped off, leaving Officer Jarrott in the ditch on the side of the interstate, the video showed.
A moment later, an HSI agent pulled up and found the murdered officer, the NMSP said in the press release.
After other NMSP officers spotted Cueva’s vehicle near mile marker 116, the suspect pulled over and opened fire on them, according to the press release.
The officers returned fire just before the suspect led them on a pursuit down Interstate 10.
As the chase closed in on mile marker 135 near Las Cruces, NMSP successfully used tire-deflating devices on Cueva’s vehicle.
The gunman continued his attempted escape as law enforcement officers from the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO), the U.S. Border Patrol, (USBP), and the Las Cruces Police Department (LCPD) joined the pursuit, police said.
When the fleeing pickup approached mile marker 140, Las Cruces Police Department (LCPD) Officer Adrian De La Garza stopped the driver using a pursuit intervention technique (PIT) maneuver.
Officer De La Garza’s bodycam captured the PIT maneuver and the immediate gun battle that followed.
Cueva came barreling out of the truck while shooting at the swarm of law enforcement officers in the vicinity, hitting Officer De La Garza in the arm, KFOX reported.
Bystander cell phone footage showed the gunman as he ran up to the front of Officer De La Garza’s patrol car with a gun pointed at the vehicle.
The officer fell backwards onto the pavement beside his patrol car and yelled out in pain before immediately scrambling to his feet and continuing to return fire, the bodycam video showed.
He then ran up on the suspect and fired multiple more rounds before reloading.
Cueva, who was wearing a ballistic vest, died from his wounds at the scene.
Officer De La Garza backed away from the fallen suspect as additional officers moved in.
“I’ve been shot,” he told a fellow officer a moment later.
Police rushed to him and helped him secure his duty weapon while they frantically rendered emergency aid, the video showed.
Officer De La Garza was airlifted to a trauma hospital.
He has since been released and is continuing to recover from his gunshot wound, KFOX reported.