Farmington police say officer-involved shooting was justified
Department releases body camera footage of March 6 incident
- Farmington police Officer Alfonso Sifuentes fired four gunshots at Andrew Rossi at the Motel 6 in Farmington.
- Farmington police Chief Steve Hebbe released a video statement regarding the officer-involved shooting.
- Rossi was wanted out of Ignacio, Colorado, for an aggravated battery with a deadly weapon charge.
FARMINGTON — Farmington police Chief Steve Hebbe says he believes the actions of a Farmington officer who fired four gunshots at a suspect who charged at him with a knife and tried to stab him earlier this month were justified.
The department released footage Thursday from a SWAT officer's body camera that recorded the incident.
Farmington police Officer Alfonso Sifuentes fired four gunshots at 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
A video statement by Hebbe was also released Thursday, along with two versions of the footage of the incident. One version is the body camera footage in slow motion.
Farmington police also have released dashboard camera footage of the Dec. 20 shooting in which Farmington Officer Brandt Warman fired five gunshots at Aztec resident Frankie L. Anchondo during an attempted traffic stop. The footage of that incident was released on Jan. 16.
Hebbe's video statement opens with the chief stating the department feels it was important for the community to receive as much information as possible and as quickly as possible.
"As of this moment, the preliminary administrative internal review of the incident demonstrates the officer's actions were justified," Hebbe says in the video.
He also states that after consulting with the New Mexico State Police, which is the agency conducting the investigation, and the San Juan County District Attorney's Office, the Farmington Police Department is confident the investigation will support the department's internal finding.
Hebbe's video statement is three minutes, 28 seconds long and includes a description of the raw video Farmington police released of the incident.
The 58-second clip shows a SWAT officer opening a door and striking the ceiling with a shovel-like device as one of the officers orders Rossi to stop moving and put his hands up.
SWAT officers made entry into Rossi's room around 1 a.m. on March 6 after spending hours attempting to negotiate and have Rossi surrender. His vehicle had been located at the motel around 8:45 p.m. March 5 by the San Juan County Sheriff's Office.
Rossi was hiding in the ceiling, and it was unclear if he could access other rooms and potentially harm other motel guests or escape, according to Hebbe.
Hebbe says as officers were removing ceiling tiles, Rossi fell to the floor, then immediately got to his feet and lunged toward Sifuentes. Hebbe also states Sifuentes pushed Rossi off him and fired four gunshots at the suspect at close range.
The video statement by Hebbe and releases from the New Mexico State Police do not state how many times Rossi was shot, but both state he sustained fatal gunshot wounds.
The footage of the incident in which Sifuentes fires the gunshots at Rossi features a view that is largely blocked by a ballistic shield held by one of the SWAT officers.
During Hebbe's video statement, he says the video is one of several that exist, and Farmington police plan to release more videos once the investigation is complete.
"Although Rossi was wanted for a violent crime, FPD was committed to a peaceful resolution," Hebbe says. "Unfortunately, Rossi's actions did not allow for that."
Rossi was wanted out of Ignacio, Colorado, for an aggravated battery with a deadly weapon charge. He was also suspect in an incident in which a victim from Ignacio had suffered multiple gunshot wounds.
Hebbe ends the video by stating this is a difficult situation for everyone. He also says he strongly supports the actions of the officers and is grateful none of them were injured during the incident.
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.