Featured Case

Head, Martha vs. City of Farmington et al. No. CV-2005-24-3 (USDC)

CASES TYPE: Civil Rights

CASES TYPE: Jury verdict in favor of our client.

On January 14, 2003, at around 2:00am, an officer was parked in his unit at the intersection of South Side River Rd. in Farmington, New Mexico. The officer noticed a maroon SUV approaching the intersection with its high beams engaged. The vehicle stopped at the red light. After the light turned green, the SUV continued through the intersection with its high beams still on as it made its way through South Side River Rd. The officer had probable cause to believe the driver was in violation of NMSA 1978, § 66-3-831(A) (use of multiple-beam road-lighting equipment).

The officer proceeded to catch up to the vehicle where he identified it as a Ford Explorer. The officer informed dispatch he was engaging in a traffic stop near South Side River Rd. and Sandstone Ave. Abruptly, The driver in the Ford Explorer accelerated his vehicle heading westbound.

The officer indicated to dispatch the vehicle failed to yield. The officer engaged his sirens and made a pursuit on the Ford Explorer. Speeds exceeded 80 MPH as the officer pursued the fleeing vehicle. While traveling west bound, the officer was losing ground on the Explorer. The officer eventually concluded that the Ford Explorer’s speed was too dangerous to continue his pursuit of the vehicle. Accordingly, the officer informed dispatch that he was going to terminate the pursuit.

The Explorer continued fleeing the officer traveling at a high rate of speed. The driver ran a red light through the intersection of South Side River St. and Broadway. The officer continued tracking the Explorer down without his siren engaged. The officer eventually lost sight of the Explorer. He continued to the nearest area where he believed the Explorer went. That is when the officer noticed a heavy cloud of dust near the intersection of McCormick School Rd. near the Hydro Plant.

The Explorer had crashed in a playground area of the school. The vehicle had rolled several times eventually striking a chained link fence. The officer got out of his unit and investigated the crash. Two of the Explorer’s passengers were laying on top of a chain linked fence. Two other passengers from the crashed vehicle fled the scene dressed in dark clothing. The officer began to attend to the two injured left near the vehicle. A male subject had a head wound and was bleeding profusely. A female subject laid unconscious while bleeding.

The male subject was holding a silver pistol in his right hand. Another hand gun was located near the injured male’s left hand. For safety precautions, the officer took the guns and placed them on the ground at a safe distance. Medics were informed of the two injured passengers. Another officer arrived on scene shortly after to assist. A large amount of fire arms were located in the vehicle. The second officer decided not to pursue the two fleeing passengers concerned that they were armed and dangerous.

Medics were able to stabilize both injured passengers and both were sent in an ambulance to the emergency room.

The on-call traffic unit was paged out to the accident scene.  Another officer responded and handled the roll-over accident.  It was brought to the officer’s attention that some methamphetamine was recovered at the scene of the accident along with several broken bottles of alcoholic beverages.  The injured female was confronted with this information, and denied having knowledge there were drugs inside the vehicle.

After being released by the on-call physician, the female was transported to the Farmington Holding Facility where she was booked on the following charges: homicide by vehicle, great bodily injury by vehicle, reckless driving, harboring a felon, speeding more than 35 mph over the speed limit, failure to dim headlights, failure to obey signal and roadways laned for traffic.  DWI charges were pending her blood test results.

Apparently, the injured male received a fractured left collar bone, fractured jaw, left arm and shoulder area, and massive head injury. He later died in the hospital from complications from his injuries.

Later, one of the fleeing passenger asserts he witnessed officers identify the injured male passenger and began to strike him in the head with a billy club. He claimed the injured male was alive underneath the crashed vehicle when officers began to hit the male passenger.

Martha Head’s suit alleged the following claims: wrongful death and aggravated battery charges against the FPD and officer, negligence on the part of another officer, wrongful death and leaving the scene of the accident claims against a fleeing passenger, and a destruction of property claim against the FPD.

The court dismissed Plaintiff’s negligence claim against the officer and the City of Farmington as a matter of law. Plaintiff’s battery claim against the officer and the City of Farmington and Plaintiff’s negligence claim against the fleeing passenger were submitted to a duly empanelled jury on August 4, 2006. The jury returned a Verdict in favor of the officer and the City of Farmington, finding the officer did not batter the injured male. The claims were dismissed with prejudice, and judgment as a matter of law was entered in favor of the officer and the City of Farmington and against Plaintiff.