ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The District Attorney’s Office will not seek criminal charges against an Albuquerque police officer involved in an April 2012 shooting that left a man with serious injuries.
Dennis Aragon, 42, survived being shot twice in the stomach and left forearm during a shooting at an apartment complex in the Southeast Heights. The officer who shot Aragon, APD detective Mike Hill, told investigators that he shot Aragon because Aragon had shouldered a .22-caliber rifle in the officer’s direction.
The District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday that it found that Hill used deadly force to protect himself or fellow officers and that the shooting was justified under New Mexico law.
Aragon arrived at an apartment complex in the 400 block of Española SE on the afternoon of April 19, 2012. Witnesses told investigators that Aragon had returned to the complex after an argument the day before with a tenant.
Detective Hill was in the area looking for a fugitive, he told investigators, when he heard a call over the police scanner about a potential aggravated assault at the complex, possibly involving a man armed with a rifle threatening tenants.
Hill then drove to the crime scene and approached Aragon. Because he was in an unmarked vehicle, Hill said, he was able to get closer than officers in marked vehicles. He saw Aragon with a rifle’s butt stock protruding from under his arm.
Aragon and another man walked away after a police helicopter arrived. Hill saw Aragon tuck the rifle under his clothing and continue walking, albeit “awkwardly.”
When two other undercover officers arrived, Hill told investigators, he felt it was time to try to contact Aragon and the other man. He drove within 15 yards of the pair and grabbed his gun. His lapel camera video, which would have captured the shooting, fell off his police vest when he stepped out of the car, Hill told investigators.
“It’s a problem that we’ve been experiencing as we’ve been issued those,” Hill said in his statement.
After shouting at the pair to stop and get on the ground, Aragon’s partner immediately did so and held up his hands. Aragon continued walking south and west across Española, staring blankly at the detective.
Hill told investigators he was concerned that Aragon didn’t appear angry or compliant.
“It made me nervous,” he said.
Aragon then stopped and turned his back toward Hill about 20 yards from the detective, as the detective continued shouting commands at Aragon to get on the ground.
Aragon then pulled the gun from under his clothes and turned to face the detective. He pulled the rifle stock onto his shoulder, put his right hand on the grip and began to raise the rifle, Hill told investigators.
When Aragon started to lift the rifle, Hill fired two shots, but the suspect continued pointing the rifle, Hill said.
Then Hill fired twice more and Aragon doubled over, apparently shot in the lower stomach.
Medical records provided to the DA showed a bullet entrance wound in Aragon’s left-lower stomach and his left forearm, with exit wounds in his left-lower back and the back of his left arm.
Aragon was charged with aggravated assault on a peace officer, aggravated assault and resisting arrest. Those charges are still pending.