Police release video from hospital shooting
The Farmington Police Department has released lapel camera footage of the police shooting at San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington on Sept. 6, 2015. Courtesy of Farmington Police Department
FARMINGTON — The Farmington Police Department released video footage Thursday that depicts the violent struggle on Sept. 6 between Officer David Rock and Heriberto Nava-Martinez at San Juan Regional Medical Center moments before the officer shot the man.
The footage, which is from Rock's body camera, shows the officer conversing with Martinez in Spanish outside a hospital room shortly after 10 p.m. Sept. 6, less than an hour after Farmington police arrested Nava-Martinez on allegations he crashed a stolen pickup truck through the front gates of a Farmington business and then drove it erratically up and down East Main Street.
Nava-Martinez, 23, was transported to San Juan Regional Medical Center after the incident due to health concerns and to have his blood tested for drugs and alcohol.
Shortly after the conversation with Rock, the video appears to show Nava-Martinez lunging at the officer, and the men wrestle while Rock calls for help.
The video shows Rock firing three rounds at Nava-Martinez in two separate incidents as Nava-Martinez alternately charges at the officer and then runs away from him.
"Stop! Stop!" Rock can be heard yelling in the video, after shooting Nava-Martinez once. "You cannot go for my gun! Get down! Get down!"
Nava-Martinez eventually drops to the floor while screaming and is handcuffed by Rock, who then calls for a doctor. An activated taser can be seen in the video on the floor near Nava-Martinez.
Nava-Martinez has been criminally charged in connection to the fight with Rock and the brief car chase with law enforcement officers that preceded it. His attorney, Ruth Wheeler, did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.
Farmington police Chief Steve Hebbe said Thursday that the video was shown to two of Nava-Martinez's relatives before it was released to the media.
Police shootings bring up concerns about officer safety, training and public perception, Hebbe said.
"Today, it is even more heightened, with the reaction of the community, the reaction of the suspect's family, when something like this happens," he said.
San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said Thursday that he is still waiting on certain medical records before determining whether to criminally charge Rock in the shooting.
But he said he does not expect those records would change his current opinion, which is that Rock was justified in shooting Nava-Martinez.
"I don't see anything in the medical records that would change what you see and what you hear in the video," O'Brien said.
Hebbe said Nava-Martinez's blood test was positive for both methamphetamine and marijuana.
O'Brien said the evidence suggests Nava-Martinez was only shot twice, once in each side of his torso. Nava-Martinez was in critical condition for several days after the shooting, despite receiving almost immediate medical attention. It also took detectives several days to identify Nava-Martinez, who is a Mexican national.
Before the shooting, Nava-Martinez was transported between hospital rooms in a wheelchair, according to the video footage. The video appears to show Rock attempting to handcuff Nava-Martinez to the chair but the officer is unable to do so.
"The hospital is locked, so even if you try to run, you can't get out," Rock tells Nava-Martinez after the attempt the video. "OK? So don't try and run."
O'Brien confirmed the wheelchair's armrests were connected only to the back of the chair, and not the seat, so it was not possible to handcuff Nava-Martinez to the chair.
Since the shooting, Hebbe said he has had conversations with hospital officials about when it is appropriate for officers to handcuff a suspect.
"We are going to be far more cautious going forward on whether prisoners are handcuffed or not," Hebbe said.
Hebbe said the shooting was difficult for both Rock and his family. He said the officer met with a psychiatrist after the shooting and has since been medically cleared to return to active duty.
Nava-Martinez is expected to be arraigned in district court on Dec. 14 on charges of assault with intent to commit a violent felony, attempted armed robbery, vehicle theft, two counts of felony vandalism and disarming a peace officer and other, lesser offenses.
Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.