New Mexico leaders pay tribute to state police 'hero' Darian Jarrott
DEMING – Darian Jarrott, 28, was the first New Mexico State Police officer to be killed in the line of duty in 30 years, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Friday after she and Lieutenant Gov. Howie Morales both met or spoke with Jarrott's family.
"We know that they're at risk every single day. They put on that badge and that uniform knowing that — just like our men and women in the military," she said in an interview with the Sun-News Friday evening. "This has happened to local family members in their police departments and sheriff's departments, and ... it causes everyone, all of us in the state, to be incredibly upset and grief-stricken and angry about crime."
The New Mexico State Police later clarified that Jarrott was the first of its officers to be killed on duty since Officer Lloyd Aragon was struck by a car driven by a suspect on Aug. 1, 2001. The last NMSP to be shot and killed while on duty was Officer Glen Huber on Jan. 26, 1991.
Jarrott died on Thursday after conducting a traffic stop on Interstate 10 east of Deming. The suspect, 39-year-old Omar Felix Cuevas, fired at least one shot at Jarrott, killing him, before fleeing eastward.
'The guy was always smiling': State Police officer Darian Jarrott remembered by chief
Cuevas himself died after a shootout with officers from multiple law enforcement agencies a short time later in Las Cruces.
Lujan Grisham said she was awaiting an updated threat assessment from the Department of Public Safety about recent criminal activity in southern New Mexico, following two fatal shootings in as many days in Luna County on top of the chaotic firefight with Cuevas in Las Cruces, New Mexico's second-largest city.
Details remained scarce about the fatal shooting by police on Wednesday of a suspect following reports of an active shooter in Deming, one day before the pursuit of Cuevas ended with Jarrott's death and injuries to other law enforcement officers.
Homeland Security Investigations was involved in both incidents, and state police said that Jarrott was assisting an HSI investigation at the time of his death.
Lujan Grisham said she had been in contact Friday with Jarrott's family, including his former spouse and current girlfriend. He was a father to three children and expecting a fourth child with his current girlfriend, a corrections officer.
"I'm a widow and I know how that feels, to have the person that you love, the father of your child, immediately stolen from you," Lujan Grisham said.
Her husband, Gregory Grisham, died in 2004 after they had been married 22 years and raised two children together.
With Jarrott's previous spouse, she said, "We had a valuable conversation about dedication, courage, loss, grief — and how the state is ready, and we want to do everything we can to support her family."
The governor also highlighted a memorial fund created by the New Mexico State Police Association to assist Jarrott's loved ones.
"There are a lot of families that cannot afford funeral costs, and $250 doesn't print invitations," the governor said. "We need to make sure that this family doesn't have to worry about any of that."
Morales, who lives in Silver City and reportedly knew Jarrott and his family, paid an in-person visit to Lordsburg.
"It definitely was a consuming day," Morales told the Sun-News Friday night, "a lot of sadness, a lot of mourning that was taking place; but there was also a lot of gratitude. The family was grateful for all the outpouring of support and love and kindness, not only in the region but across the whole state and even throughout the country."
He said the family planned to issue a public statement in Jarrott's memory after some time to grieve and was requesting privacy until then.
Lujan Grisham has ordered New Mexico flags to remain at half-staff through Tuesday evening. On Thursday, memorials to Jarrott cropped up in signage around Lordsburg, including at Lordsburg High School, where he graduated in 2010. Many displays featured Jarrott's NMSP badge number: 1251.
At the East Mesa Public Safety Complex in Las Cruces, cadets from the Las Cruces Police Academy used sandbags to spell out Jarrott's badge number on a slope near a traffic intersection, in honor of him.
"He was a hero," Morales said. "He was a hero state championship football player. He was a hero protecting us on the front lines. There was just a strong sense of pride for Officer Jarrott."
'Maybe this is a reckoning'
Lujan Grisham also addressed solidarity and grief among law enforcement communities at a time when political rhetoric over accountability for police officers has led many to complain of collective guilt for abuses of police authority and force.
During an emotional press conference in Deming Thursday night, acting state police chief Robert Thornton said, "It's very important that people know that officers are out here, and they're good people, and I love everything that they do."
A civil rights commission created by the governor recently split over supporting legislation that would create an avenue for civil rights claims in state courts and forbid the use of "qualified immunity" defenses, which critics claim serve as a shield for police officers accused of civil rights abuses.
Lujan Grisham reflected that personal faces, like Jarrott's, often get lost in debates over policy and structural power.
"In every institution — education, healthcare, public safety military — we know we have accountability issues," the governor said. "We know that we have individuals who either make mistakes or who are bad actors, and we need to deal with that. To take those issues ... and to somehow paint a picture (that) police officers are not dedicated, courageous individuals (with) families that deserve our respect and attention is wrong."
"Maybe this is a reckoning," she continued. "We have to stop broadly painting all of these issues. ... The individuals who get up every morning, say goodbye to their children, who put on a uniform, who rush into a fire, who rush into an emergency room, who rush to the scene of an accident, or show up to work to make sure that you and I are safe, cannot continue to be vilified by institutional structures that we're trying to address. It has to end."
Shortly after the Friday evening interview, at approximately 5:30 p.m., New Mexico State Police escorted Jarrott's body in a motorcade departing from Albuquerque en route to a funeral home in Deming.
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