Family of man shot by police files public records lawsuit
Lawsuits were filed on March 1 in two state district courts
- The complaint filed against the city of Farmington states the plaintiff made a written request for public records on Jan. 9 through attorneys.
- The Inspection of Public Records Act request was denied the next day by city attorney Jennifer Breakell.
- Breakell's letter stated the records will be released when the investigation is complete and a decision regarding charging Officer Brandt Warman has been made.
FARMINGTON — The brother of a suspect shot dead by a Farmington police officer is suing the New Mexico Department of Public Safety and the city of Farmington for denying a public records request for information from the incident.
Complaints filed by plaintiff Felix Anchondo were filed in San Juan County District Court and Santa Fe District Court on March 1, according to court records.
Anchondo is the brother of Frankie L. Anchondo, who was shot and killed by Officer Brandt Warman during a pursuit and attempted traffic stop on Riverstone Road on Dec. 20.
Warman alleges the suspect exited his vehicle and approached Warman with an object that later was identified as an electronic cigarette, according to New Mexico State Police.
State Police are conducting an investigation into the shooting.
The complaint asks the city of Farmington to produce all records sought by the plaintiff in his requests, along with awarding damages, costs and reasonable attorneys' fees to the plaintiff.
The complaint filed against the city of Farmington by Felix states the plaintiff on Jan. 9 through attorneys made a written request for public records, including any existing audio and video recordings or/and transcripts of audio recordings, any reports written by any Farmington Police Department officer present at the scene and copies of any complaints filed against Warman and any Internal Affairs reports.
The Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) request was denied the next day by city attorney Jennifer Breakell. The plaintiff was directed to the San Juan County Dispatch Center for copies of certain reports, according to a copy of the letter.
Breakell's letter states the records will be released when the investigation is complete and a decision about whether to charge Warman has been made.
Footage of Warman's dashboard camera was released on Jan. 16 and starts when the officer observed Frankie's passenger, Alicia Jackson, hanging outside the window of the passenger-side door screaming for help.
Warman was at the intersection of McCormick School Road and East Broadway Avenue around 6:20 p.m. on Dec. 20 when he observed Jackson and Frankie's pickup truck traveling on East Broadway Avenue.
Warman followed the pickup truck onto the Bloomfield Highway and watched the truck turn north on Riverstone Road, where the officer attempted a traffic stop and the shooting occurred.
Shawna Reeves, a spokeswoman for the city, said in an email the city stands by the denial of records request as the case is under investigation.
"Currently the New Mexico State Police have not concluded their investigation," Reeves said. "Additionally, the District Attorney's Office has not reviewed the investigation."
Reeves said the city of Farmington plans on filing a response to the complaint and will vigorously defend itself against the lawsuit.
New Mexico State Police did not respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit and investigation.
Joseph Kennedy, one of Felix Anchondo's attorneys, said the Farmington Police Department is just delaying the release of the records, and the department has provided a prejudiced and wrong narrative of the footage from the dashboard camera.
An attorney for Felix Anchondo was able to view a copy of the dashboard camera footage before a copy was received by the plaintiff on Jan. 18.
Kennedy said he has questions about Warman's actions on the night of the shooting. He said Frankie was shot once in the back, and he believes Frankie might have been running away from the officer when he was shot.
State Police have not disclosed how many of the five gunshots fired by Warman struck the suspect.
Once all the public records are collected, Kennedy said the attorneys and plaintiffs will meet and discuss possibly pursuing a lawsuit regarding the shooting.
The fatal shooting was the first of two in recent months involving the Farmington Police Department.
Farmington police Officer Alfonso Sifuentes shot and killed aggravated battery suspect Andrew Rossi early on March 6 after SWAT officers entered the room Rossi was in at the Motel 6 at 1600 Bloomfield Blvd. in Farmington.
Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said in a video statement Rossi charged at Sifuentes with a knife and tried to stab the officer after Rossi fell from the ceiling, where he was hiding.
Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.