New Mexico police shoot, kill man after going to wrong house during domestic violence call

"This ending is just unbelievably tragic. I'm extremely sorry that we're in this position."
"This ending is just unbelievably tragic. I'm extremely sorry that we're in this position." Photo credit: Via CNN

Authorities are investigating the shooting of a man killed by police at his northwestern New Mexico home after they arrived at the wrong address, police said.

Robert Dotson, 52, was killed Wednesday night by officers with the Farmington Police Department after they received a call reporting a domestic violence incident around 11:30 p.m. and went to his house instead of the one across the street, according to local and state police.

"I am just heartbroken. ... Mr. Dotson was not the subject of this call," Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said during a Thursday video statement posted on Facebook. "This ending is just unbelievably tragic. I'm extremely sorry that we're in this position."

Upon arriving to the neighborhood in Farmington, which is about 150 miles northwest of Albuquerque, officers "mistakenly approached 5305 Valley View Avenue instead of 5308 Valley View Avenue," New Mexico State Police said in a statement Thursday.

After no one answered their knocks on the door, police officers asked the dispatch to call the person who reported the incident and ask them to come to the front door.

At some point, Dotson opened the door of his home while armed with a handgun and at least one officer shot at least one round from their gun, striking and killing Dotson at the scene, according to state police citing body camera footage.

Armed with a handgun, Dotson's wife exchanged gunfire with officers, but she was not injured, authorities said.

"Once again, officer(s) fired. Once she realized that the individuals outside the residence were officers, she put the gun down and complied with the officer's commands," state police said in their statement.

The responding officers, who were not injured in the shooting, will not be publicly identified by state police, according to their statement.

It's unclear how many officers were at the scene at the time of the shooting or how many fired their guns. It's also unclear whether Dotson fired at the officers at all before police shot and killed him.

CNN has filed a public records request with the New Mexico State Police for the body camera footage. The video of the shooting is expected to be released within a week, Hebbe said Thursday.

"There's nothing I can say that will make this better. It's a terrible event, and I'm heartbroken over it," Hebbe added.

The shooting is currently under investigation by the New Mexico State Police. The agency's Investigations Bureau has been requested to probe the incident, state police said.

Second case of wrong location this week

The killing of Dotson and other recent cases highlight the dangerous consequences that can result when police activity at the wrong address causes an armed innocent individual to confront authorities whom they may suspect to be criminals posing a threat.

Whether responding to calls for service or executing a planned arrest, law enforcement officers are trained in the importance of verifying both the information leading them to a particular location as well as in exercising due diligence to confirm they are in the proper location.

Wednesday's fatal police shooting occurred a day after a similar controversial case of authorities targeting the wrong location.

FBI and US Army tactical personnel conducting training exercises in Boston on Tuesday raided the wrong hotel room, detaining an innocent Delta Air Lines employee based on what authorities described as "inaccurate information."

"Conducting special operations in urban environments has always been a training challenge," said CNN law enforcement analyst John Miller. "The only way to replicate those challenges to operational security is to practice in real urban environments."

Multiple checks and verifications are typically built into the planning system before a preplanned entry or raid, Miller says.

"The idea is to minimize the chance that you either had the wrong address, or the wrong door at the right address. These checks usually go up the chain of command to someone on the senior level to review them to make sure all the proper steps have been taken," Miller said.

In addition to being embarrassing for departments and potentially deadly for police and innocent bystanders, targeting incorrect addresses has proven exceedingly expensive for taxpayers.

In December 2021, Chicago's city council approved a nearly $3 million settlement for a nurse whose home was mistakenly targeted in a botched raid based on bad information from an informant. Police body camera video showed a naked and distraught Anjanette Young handcuffed and questioned by authorities as she tried to explain officers had the wrong address.