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The widow of a New Mexico State Police officer fatally shot during a traffic stop in February has filed a wrongful death lawsuit contending that her husband died because of the agency’s negligence.
Gabriella Jarrott filed the lawsuit Friday in 1st Judicial District Court in Santa Fe on behalf of her minor children and as personal representative of the estate of Darian Jarrott. The lawsuit names the state Department of Public Safety as a defendant and alleges negligence.
State Police declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The suit seeks unspecified damages, including “costs of this action and any other relief the Court deems just and proper.” Gabriella Jarrott is represented by attorney Sam Bregman.
Omar Cueva fatally shot the 28-year-old on Feb. 4 after Jarrott pulled him over along Interstate 10 east of Deming. Cueva, 39, then got into a chase and gunfight with authorities that ended with his death in Las Cruces.
State Police documents previously released to the Journal reveal that Cueva had been targeted in a federal drug sting involving a confidential informant and undercover agent.
Officials with Homeland Security Investigations were hoping that State Police could take Cueva into custody during a traffic stop so that he wouldn’t suspect that he had been set up by the undercover agent and confidential informant.
Bregman said Jarrott was “slaughtered in an ambush that never had to happen.”
“The reason he was killed was because Homeland Security Investigations valued the identity of a confidential informant more than the life of a State Police officer,” Bregman told the Journal. “This all could have been avoided.”
He said he will also be filing a lawsuit against HSI, which tasked State Police with Cueva’s capture along I-10 as an alternative to arresting him during an undercover drug buy in Las Cruces.
The lawsuit alleges that State Police and HSI had Jarrott make the traffic stop without any backup or protective gear and without informing him of “how dangerous Cueva was known to be.”
To protect its confidential informer, HSI chose “not to simply arrest” Cueva, who was “heavily armed” and had a large amount of drugs, at the drug buy but have State Police arrest him during a traffic stop between Deming and Las Cruces, the lawsuit states.
Another pair of State Police officers and Jarrott’s sergeant were aware of the operation and Cueva’s history but Jarrott, the lawsuit alleges, was not informed or invited to the HSI briefing beforehand.
Most of the allegations made in the lawsuit were detailed in State Police records previously made public. But the suit also alleges that Jarrott – who enforced commercial vehicle regulations with DPS before coming to State Police – was not provided the full training and law enforcement academy curriculum given to other State Police officers.
“Jarrott had no substantial training in special tactics or the kind of high-risk operation that was being carried out with respect to Cueva,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit contends Jarrott’s superiors were aware of Jarrott’s background and “knew he did not have the proper training or experience to apprehend Cueva.”