LUNA COUNTY, N.M. — Newly released information on the killing of a New Mexico State Police officer during a Feb. 4 traffic stop indicates he was caught by surprise when a man who’d agreed to temporarily surrender a rifle instead opened fire.
According to a state police statement and video excerpts released Friday, 39-year-old Omar Felix Cueva of Deming fired an AR-15 style rifle at least once at officer Darian Jarrott across the pickup truck’s bed and then fatally shot Jarrott after he ducked and fell.
As Cueva ran toward the front of the truck on the passenger’s side, he shot Jarrott point-blank in the back of the head.
Authorities previously said Cueva fatally shot Jarrott after being pulled over on Interstate 10 west of Las Cruces. Cueva later died in a shootout with other officers after a pursuit.
New Mexico State Police Officers Lionel Palomares and Sonny Montes located Cueva driving east on Interstate 10 near mile marker 116.
Cueva pulled over and fired at officers Palomares and Montes. The officers returned fire at Cueva who continued to evade officers.
Prior to the pickup coming to a stop, Cueva exited the pickup armed with a firearm and shot multiple rounds towards the officers and deputies.
Reporter Holly Bock sat down with two Las Cruces Police Department retirees and had them walk her through the video.
She spoke with Joe Sellers Sr and Danny Garcia who both served in the department for 25 years.
Jarrott was on the passenger side of the vehicle while talking to the man in the truck, asking him to either roll his windows down or open his car door.
Sellers and Garcia said Jarrott was on the passenger side of the vehicle because they were on a major highway.
Jarrott then asks the man if he has a firearm.
Sellers and Garcia said if you can see a person has a firearm, the right protocol to follow is to take control of it for the officer’s safety. Which is what Jarrott did.
They said the truck played a role in how this situation unfolded.
“That was a blockade right there, the truck itself. We are trained to keep our eyes on that person at all times but that being said the officer is on one side and the driver on the other side and now he doesn’t have a view of any other weapons which he did,” Garcia said.
Holly asked: Would it have been wrong if officer Jarrott had his weapon out at that time?
“It would not have been wrong. I myself would have had mine out, pointed right at him probably not, but I would have had it out of my holster just to be ready,” Garcia said.
Both Sellers and Garcia said the video is too hard to watch.
It was very disturbing. It takes me back to years ago when I was in that situation too with a rifle pointed at my face,” Garcia said. “I made the decision to go ahead and continue watching it and at one point I was like I don’t want to finish it. You just cannot prepare for this. There is no way. You never know as much as you have been trained or going to be trained but the thing is things can get out of hand really quick and as you can see just in seconds.
“The officer had no way of knowing that this guy was going to come out as he did. He walked on the passenger side of the vehicle which I thought was the right thing to do especially on a manor highway,” Sellers said. “It’s very disturbing. It’s hard to talk about.”
Jarrott was laid to rest on Friday, February 12 at Shakespeare Cemetery in Lordsburg during a private burial.