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Video shows officer blindsided in fatal shooting

This screenshot from a State Police dash cam video shows Omar Cueva pointing an AR-15 rifle at State Police officer Darian Jarrott moments before shooting him on Feb. 4. (Source: New Mexico State Police)

Minutes after State Police officer Darian Jarrott pulled over Omar Cueva along Interstate 10 east of Deming, he noticed a firearm in the truck.

“Do you mind if I take it off you, for my safety?” Jarrott asks through the passenger side window.

The officer never got the chance.

As the two men walk to the back of the truck, Cueva raises the rifle and shoots an unsuspecting Jarrott. The officer falls to the ground, reaching for his gun, and Cueva moves around the truck, shooting him several more times.

Cueva puts the rifle to the back of Jarrott’s head and fires once more before he jumps into the truck and speeds off down the highway.

Two agents with Homeland Security Investigations arrive soon after, one of them saying “he’s dead” and spewing expletives.

On Friday State Police released lapel and dash cam footage and details of the Feb. 4 fatal shooting of the 28-year-old Lordsburg native, a father of three who had a fourth child on the way.

Officer Darian Jarrott

The man who shot him, 39-year-old Cueva, was killed in a gunfight with authorities in Las Cruces soon after. Jarrott was the first New Mexico State Police officer shot and killed in the line of duty in more than 30 years.

State Police had previously said that, at the time of the traffic stop, Jarrott was assisting HSI with an investigation and Cueva was on his way to do a “drug buy.” Cueva had previously served time in prison in California on drug charges after he was caught with 15 pounds of methamphetamine and a loaded assault rifle, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

An HSI spokeswoman previously said State Police was helping the agency in an “ongoing narcotics investigation” when Jarrott was shot. The HSI spokeswoman did not respond to calls for comment on Friday.

State Police spokesman Ray Wilson declined to comment on HSI’s involvement.

Up until Friday, authorities had not released many details about the events surrounding Jarrott’s death as the investigation was ongoing.

It was about noon when Jarrott stopped a white pickup on eastbound I-10 east of Deming. In lapel video Jarrott tells the driver, Cueva, that he pulled him over because his window tint was too dark.

Jarrott asks Cueva to exit the truck and bring his license, registration and insurance before he notices a gun in the truck. He asks Cueva to give him the rifle once he gets out of the truck.

The dash camera footage shows the two men walk to the back of the truck, Cueva holding an AR-15 style rifle in one hand and what looks like a walkie-talkie or police scanner in the other. Without warning Cueva raises the rifle and opens fire, shooting Jarrot multiple times as vehicles drive by on the highway.

Within minutes, the video shows Homeland Security Investigations agents show up and begin trying to render aid to Jarrott. At one point, a bystander walks up, his hands in the air, and tells the agents he saw everything.

Omar Cueva (Courtesy NMSP)

Wilson said State Police officers Lionel Palomares and Sonny Montes caught up to Cueva headed east on I-10 and Cueva pulled over and fired at the officers. Both officers fired back at Cueva who got back into the truck and continued east.

He said, soon after, authorities with the Las Cruces Police Department, the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office, and U.S. Border Patrol jumped into the pursuit. Wilson said State Police used spike strips on the truck near the Picacho exit on I-10, but Cueva continued to flee.

He said “various law enforcement officers” fired at Cueva as he fled, including DASO Deputy Jerod Huston, DASO Deputy John Signore and USBP Agent Oscar Delgado. Wilson said LCPD officer Adrian De La Garza used a pursuit intervention technique, or PIT maneuver, and, before the truck came to a stop, Cueva got out and fired multiple rounds at authorities.

He said De La Garza and DASO Deputies Diego Herrera and Obed Marte returned fire and Cueva was struck several times by gunfire. Wilson said, in the gunfight, De La Garza was struck by gunfire and airlifted to a hospital in Texas where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

He said Cueva was pronounced dead at the scene.

Of those who opened fire during the incident, Wilson said State Police officers Palomares and Montes had eight and six years of service, respectively. LCPD officer De La Garza had 17 years of service. DASO deputies Huston, Signore, Marte and Herrera had 16, 13, 11 and 19 years of service, respectively. USBP Agent Delgado had 11 years of service.

“The New Mexico State Police officers were placed on standard leave and have since returned to duty,” Wilson said. “… Officer Darian Jarrott was laid to rest on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, at Shakespeare Cemetery in Lordsburg during a private burial.”

Jarrott was sworn in as a State Police officer in July 2015.

“We appreciate the public’s support during this difficult time,” State Police Chief Robert Thornton said in a statement. “We will honor Officer Jarrott’s sacrifice by continuing to serve and protect the citizens of New Mexico.”

 


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