State cop fired over shooting hired as deputy in Taos

SANTA FE – Former New Mexico State Police officer Elias Montoya, dismissed last year after firing three shots at a fleeing van occupied by a mother and her five children, has been hired as a deputy sheriff in Taos County, Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe confirmed Tuesday.

Montoya has said he was unaware the van was full of children and that he was aiming at a rear tire when he shot at the van as it sped away on NM 518 south of Taos in October 2013.

The gunfire followed a chaotic encounter that started when another officer pulled the van driver over for speeding. The incident was recorded in a State Police dash-cam video that went viral and attracted international news attention and commentary.

Oriana Farrell, 40, the van driver and mother of the children in the vehicle, drove away from the scene without permission following the speeding stop, then pulled over again on the side of the highway after traveling a short distance. At that point, she and one of her sons struggled with officers, then refused to get out of the van. Farrell pulled away a second time after a second officer on the scene started bashing out a van window with his police baton as children inside screamed.

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Montoya, the third officer to arrive, shot toward the van as it departed. Farrell, who had been traveling through New Mexico on a trip that started in Memphis, led officers on a chase into Taos before she pulled over at a hotel and was arrested at gunpoint.

Montoya was fired by State Police Chief Pete Kassetas after an internal investigation. Montoya appealed his dismissal but reached a confidential settlement with the State Police.

Sheriff Hogrefe said Montoya and another newly-hired deputy started work for Taos County on Monday.

Many in the Taos community supported Montoya, who was known for working with troubled youth and bought food for Farrell’s family after her arrest. While there were some protests against how the State Police handled the Farrell cases, there were also two Taos marches supporting Montoya’s reinstatement and almost 6,000 likes as of December 2013, on a pro-Montoya Facebook page.

Montoya could not be reached for comment Tuesday about his new job. Farrell, who is free on bond, goes to trial in late April on charges of aggravated fleeing and child abuse.

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Former State Police officer Elias Montoya, fired last year after firing shots at fleeing van occupied by a mother and her five children, has been hired as a deputy sheriff in Taos County, Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe confirmed this morning.

Montoya had said he was unaware the van was full of children and that he was shooting at a rear tire when he fired at the van as it sped away on NM 518 near Taos after a chaotic encounter that the driver, Oriana Farrell, had with several officers in October 2013. Farrell pulled away once after being stopped for speeding, then did so a second time after she and a son struggled with officers.

Police video of an officer smashing the window of Farrell’s van and of Montoya firing shots went world-wide and sparked controversy.

Hogrefe said Montoya and another deputy started work yesterday. Montoya was fired by State Police chief Pete Kassetas after an internal investigation of the Farrell incident.

Many in the Taos community supported Montoya who had worked with troubled youth and bought food for Farrell’s family after she was arrested following a vehicle pursuit.

Farrell goes to trial in late April on charges of aggravated fleeing and child abuse.

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