Chief Deputy DA: Early information suggests officer acted lawfully in shooting

Steve Garrison The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — An official with the San Juan County District Attorney's Office said that the information so far available on the Sept. 6 shooting of Heriberto Nava-Martinez by a Farmington police officer suggests the officer acted lawfully.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said he was briefed on the incident shortly after the shooting and, on its face, the shooting seems justified.

"Based on the information I have to date, it does not appear the officer unlawfully used force," he said.

He said he has not received a full report from New Mexico State Police, the agency tasked with investigating the shooting.

New Mexico State Police Sergeant Chad Pierce did not respond to questions about the investigation Friday.

Meanwhile, Nava-Martinez remained in critical condition at the San Juan Regional Medical Center on Friday, according to hospital spokeswoman Roberta Rogers. His condition has not improved since Wednesday.

According to the American Hospital Association, critical condition indicates the patient's vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. The patient may be unconscious and indicators are unfavorable.

As previously reported, Nava-Martinez was arrested Sunday night on suspicion of stealing a vehicle from a business on Herrera Road and crashing it into several objects on East Main Street, endangering the lives of several other motorists.

Nava-Martinez was transported to the hospital after his arrest to be tested for alcohol use and to receive treatment for injuries sustained during the incident.

Farmington police said in a press release that Nava-Martinez initiated a violent struggle with Officer David Rock while at the hospital. During the struggle, Rock shot Nava-Martinez, according to the press release.

According to the press release, Nava-Martinez was being moved between different parts of the hospital when he allegedly attacked Rock. O'Brien said he did not believe Nava-Martinez was handcuffed at the time.

Vince Mitchell, safety and security manager for the hospital, said the hospital will perform an internal review of the shooting to determine whether changes in policies or procedures need to be made.

"I think all these incidents, as tragic as they are, they are opportunities to make San Juan Regional a better place," Mitchell said.

He said he was still waiting for the state police investigation to be completed, but he believed that a hospital staff member heard Rock shoot Nava-Martinez or witnessed the struggle between the men and called the internal emergency phone line, which resulted in security officers being dispatched.

"It's important to note the response was pretty quick," Mitchell said.

He said he was uncertain whether Nava-Martinez was handcuffed during the incident and said police retain custody of suspects being treated at the hospital.

Mitchell retired as deputy chief of the Farmington Police Department earlier this year.

Farmington police Chief Steve Hebbe said Rock joined the Farmington Police Department on June 9, 2003, and has 12 years of experience as an officer.

He said Rock will likely return to active duty next week.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.