DA vindicates officer in police shooting

Steve Garrison
Heriberto Nava-Martinez

FARMINGTON — The San Juan County District Attorney's Office has determined that it will not seek criminal charges against Farmington police officer David Rock in the Sept. 6 shooting of Heriberto Nava-Martinez.

The office stated in an letter sent Friday to New Mexico State Police — the agency that investigated the shooting — that Rock's actions during the incident were reasonable and appropriate.

San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said in an interview Monday he reviewed medical evidence, police reports and the video footage before making the determination.

He said Rock's actions were not only lawful, but commendable, and likely prevented a greater tragedy.

"When the individual is trying to get that weapon away, it effectively becomes a fight over that officer's life and (the life of) anyone else in the vicinity," O'Brien said.

Farmington police Chief Steve Hebbe said Monday he believed Rock acted legally and followed department policy.

"The Farmington Police Department appreciates the time and effort of the district attorney's office and the state police," Hebbe said.

Rock shot Heriberto Nava-Martinez, a 23-year-old Mexican national, at San Juan Regional Medical Center on Sept. 6 during an altercation in the hospital's emergency room. Nava-Martinez was in the hospital to have his blood tested and to be treated for wounds allegedly sustained during a brief and bizarre joy ride on East Main Street.

Farmington police officials said after the shooting that Nava-Martinez lunged at Rock and initiated a violent struggle, a claim that was bolstered by the release on Dec. 10 of Rock's body camera video.

The footage appeared to show that Rock fired three rounds at Nava-Martinez after the suspect attempted to disarm him and flee from the hospital.

Nava-Martinez was in critical condition for several days following the shooting, but survived and now faces a host of criminal charges in connection to the altercation with Rock and the alleged joy ride that preceded it.

O'Brien said Rock showed restraint in his use of deadly force. The shooting could have been lethal if Rock had fired more rounds or if he did not immediately seek medical care for Nava-Martinez, according to O'Brien.

O'Brien attributed Rock's response to effective training.

Hebbe said it was not only training, but Rock's effective use of police equipment, such as the stun gun, that prevented a greater tragedy.

"It is training, it is equipment, but it is also Officer Rock, who acted with great composure in a difficult circumstance," according to Hebbe.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.