Video: Chief releases body camera footage of Farmington police shooting Footage shows uncertainty among officers concerning the location seconds before shots were firedFarmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe on Friday released records, including footage from body-worn cameras and related 911 calls, from the shooting April 5 that led to the death of Robert Dotson.“The release of these records is consistent with the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records, as well as our desire to be forthcoming and transparent regarding this tragic event,” Hebbe said during a news conference at the Farmington Police Station. “Ultimately, I believe that the footage will help to provide a greater understanding of what transpired.”Bodycam footage showed three officers involved in the shooting. Their names were redacted and will not be released until the New Mexico State Police concludes interviews with the officers, most likely late next week, according to Hebbe. “Two of the officers have been with the department for approximately five years. The third officer has been with the department for approximately three years,” Hebbe said, adding that the third officer was a community service officer, who became a police officer nine months ago. All three officers were placed on paid administrative leave for the length of the investigation, per department policy.Farmington officers were dispatched about 11:30 p.m. April 5, to 5308 Valley View Ave. in response to a domestic violence call. The footage began when three officers arrived on Valley View Avenue. They approached the house at 5305 Valley View Ave. When asked about officers approaching the wrong house, Hebbe said, “That’s the worst part of this for us. … I can’t give you that explanation right now. That is part of the interviews and that’s what the state police will be looking at.”Video footage from Officer 1 showed the house number as the officer approached the front of the house. As the footage continued, it showed officers approach the door at 5305 Valley View Ave. Officer 1 knocked on the door and identified himself as Farmington police three times. Between the second and third knocks, the officers discussed the address. Officer 1 asked, “Is this 43 or 5308?” Officer 3 responded, but the audio was unclear. “Is this not 5308? That’s what it said right there, right?” Officer 1 asked. Officer 2 said, “No, it said 5305, didn’t it?” Hebbe said it was obvious in the video that officers were at the wrong address.“You know that, that really is something that the officers are going to have to talk with the state police about it and certainly, you know, the results of it are terrible.”Audio on the video showed Officer 1 requested confirmation of the address and dispatch confirmed the 5308 address. Officers backed away from the door and approximately four seconds later, Dotson opened the screen door, and pointed a firearm at the officers. Officers drew their firearms and fired their weapons, fatally striking Dotson.About a minute later, a woman, later identified as Dotson’s wife, appeared at the front door with a firearm and fired at officers, who returned fire. The released footage ended after the conclusion of shots being exchanged.All three officers fired their weapons during the shooting. How many shots were fired by Farmington officers is part of the state police investigation.The Dotson family, along with their attorney, reviewed the video footage at the San Juan County District Attorney’s Office before its public release. “We arranged through the district attorney's office to show the video to them, and that happened yesterday,” Hebbe said, adding that practice was standard procedure. “We have good cooperation with the DA’s office, they will almost always reach out to the family before we release video and let the family see it. My understanding is a number of family members did come including their attorney,” Hebbe said. Hebbe was not present, but both deputy chiefs were there.Farmington police later responded to 5308 Valley View Ave., the location of the original call, at about 2:51 a.m. April 6. Officers spoke to occupants and made a report of the shooting. No one was hurt and no arrests were made.Hebbe said that the shooting will be investigated and state police will try to determine why officers went to the wrong address, but there are several reasons why police might be outside a person’s house at night. “You know if your car’s doors are standing open, and the police officer sees it, we're gonna go up to the house and make contact with you, because maybe your car has been, been burglarized,” he said. “If your garage door’s open, you know we're gonna go up and knock on the door even at two in the morning. I've done that. So there's a lot of reasons that an officer could be out there knocking on the door in this case, you know, I believe that we were just at the wrong address.” “All of us – the men and women of the Farmington Police Department – recognize the severity of this shooting. We will do everything possible to more fully understand what transpired here,” Chief Hebbe said in a news release. “Once again, we wish to express our condolences to the Dotson family and as your chief of police, I wish to convey how very sorry I am that this tragedy occurred. We will continue to provide updates as we are able.”The investigation of the officer-involved shooting is being conducted by the New Mexico State Police and remains active and ongoing. FPD stated in a media release that it is cooperating fully with the state police as the investigation continues.Additional information and records will be released as soon as they are available for lawful release.
Students take the stage at Totah TheaterTwo-week poetry residency at Navajo Preparatory School culminates in poetry readingTwenty Navajo Preparatory School students presented poetry written as part of a two-week residency program in February and March with poets Venaya Yazzie and Tina Deschenie at the Saad Ákeé’lchi'i poetry reading Monday, April 3, at Totah Theater in Farmington. There is no perfectly equivalent word for poetry in Navajo, but Yazzie that Saad Ákeé’lchi'i was chosen to represent poetry because it refers to the “aspects of words or expressions that are decorated or adorned.” More than 30 students submitted poetry at the end of the workshops. The poems were compiled into the “Ba’ Hané” bilingual poetry zine, which was highlighted at the reading. Students and attendees of the reading received copies of the zine. Ba’ Hané refers to the act of telling or “talking history,” and the zine serves as a way for students to share part of their history with others. Yazzie, who has conducted artist presentations and workshops with Four Corners schools in the past, discussed the idea of a residency and poetry zine with Northwest New Mexico Arts Council President Flo Trujillo. As the former youth services coordinator at Farmington Public Library, Trujillo created “Blended,” a zine for the Teen Zone that was published three times a year. Yazzie said her experience working with Trujillo at the library and the “Blended” zine provided a map to work from for the “Ba’ Hané” zine. The residency and zine production were funded by Navajo Transitional Energy Co., the Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation and Northwest New Mexico Arts Council. During the residency, Yazzie and Deschenie worked with students in Cheryl Wolfe’s junior and senior language and literature classes to write and workshop poems in English and in the students’ native languages. Deschenie, who is fluent in Navajo, assisted students with translations when needed. Yazzie said the goal of the residency was to focus on language and culture in order to “perpetuate them as a cultural people.” A major component of that was encouraging students to write in the language that best expressed their ideas and not limiting them to English. Code switching is a practice most people use situationally to varying degrees, but it is often more pronounced in bilingual speakers. A person code switches when they move between languages or types of language, such as technical phrasing and jargon over everyday terminology. For people who speak multiple languages, which language to use often depends on culture and personal meaning attached to words and ideas. Yazzie said that with Native American languages, it’s difficult to translate particular words into English, so using the native word may be more precise or hold more meaning to the speaker. Yazzie called this mixing of English and Navajo words “Navlish,” and though it is often discouraged when it comes to language revitalization, she did not want to dictate or limit the students’ voices as they wrote. Many of the pieces included in the zine incorporate English and the student’s native languages. Another aspect of code switching that Yazzie acknowledged was the Navajo cultural practice of using different words and language styles depending on the who is being spoken to. She said that Navajo language is gendered, and the Navajo culture also has gendered roles, both of which influence how people speak to one other and what words they use. Allowing students the freedom to express their ideas in a way that reflected cultural norms and personal language styles was an important aspect of workshopping poems. Yazzie said that another area she expected gender to play a role in the workshops was willingness to participate, but she was pleasantly surprised to see male students engaging with the content. In other workshops with students of various ethnicities and cultures, Yazzie said it can be difficult to get male students to participate because poetry is often seen as a feminine art form. Yazzie theorized that because many medicine people in the Navajo culture are men, there is less stigma about young men participating in poetry. Medicine people sing songs of healing, and singing is a form of poetry Yazzie said, which makes poetry part of the culture. Male students like Watson Whitford jumped right in, contributing two poems, one in Cree and English on the elements of life and a second poem on love which incorporated stylized art into the structure. Marcus Nahalea, a student of Navajo-Hawaiian descent, submitted a poem about Nightmarchers titled “Hauka’I po,” which included the Hawaiian language. During the reading, he explained the poem’s significance and how his heritage has shaped him. Other students paired their poetry with photography, drawings and other mediums, which allowed them to add additional layers of meaning to their work. The students’ eagerness to participate in workshops impressed Begay. She said she didn’t have to tell them what to write or push them one direction or another. “They already had something they wanted to share,” she said. Giving students free rein on topics provided Yazzie and Deschenie with a unique view into what “young generations of Native Americans are dialoguing about in current times.” The result was a diverse range of topics, from the flow of time and life to “rez dogs and cats” to family connections, identity and what the future might hold for the students. Starlit Begay’s poem “Ghéé” drew laughter while Makayla Yazzie’s poem “Shimasaní anigoo, Shinaliíanigoo” brought up deep emotions for the young poet, causing her to take a moment to collect herself and receive comfort from classmates. A surprise addition to the evening’s roster included Navajo Prep student and recent New Mexico State English Expo Poetry Slam first place winner Landon Succo, who read his winning poem in both Navajo and English. Succo also won second place in original storytelling and first place in short stories.Yazzie spearheaded compiling the students’ work into the zine. She was given creative control of the formatting and artistic elements, though she said she was grateful for Trujillo’s experience and guidance on the project. Yazzie expressed how pleased she was with the project as a whole. She said Navajo Prep was very supportive of the residency and of organizing the reading event, and that the students driven and focused attitudes made them a pleasure to work. Family, friends and community members attended the reading. Yazzie and Trujillo expressed particular thanks to San Juan County Commission GloJean Todacheene for attending the reading and supporting the students. Both Yazzie and Trujillo hope to see a subsequent edition of the zine and are reaching out to other organizations which might be interested in funding and distributing. Yazzie said she hopes the project encourages students to continue to explore their native languages and cultures, and to share them with others. “I really believe that our children have our language to keep them strong,” she said.
Two-week poetry residency at Navajo Preparatory School culminates in poetry reading
Video, set to Looney Tunes theme song, shows boulder being blasted to bitsContractors blew up two rocks that had fallen along La Posta Road (County Road 213)A La Plata County road and bridge crew worked with contractors from Franklin Blasting & Drilling Monday to clear two large boulders from the county right of way along La Posta Road (County Road 213). The operation ended with a bang: contractors used a couple pounds of dynamite to blow the boulders into manageable chunks. One of the boulders slid down an embankment, causing damage to one the southbound lanes on March 13. The other had been sitting there for four or five years, according to Mike Canterbury, road and bridge superintendent.La Posta Road was closed for several hours as crews kept everyone at a safe distance during the blasting and while a crew cleared the remnants. A drone video taken by the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, set to the Looney Tunes theme song, shows the 8-foot by 12-foot boulder being busted into chunks.Stan Michael, the blaster, said the exact techniques used in such operations vary depending on a number of factors and should not be attempted by anyone who is not a trained professional. Canterbury said that while the larger boulder caused some damage to the road when it fell, the blasting occurred off to the side of the road and the debris stayed relatively contained.A road crew spent two hours loading the debris into a dump truck before reopening the road. County officials are warning that the melting snowpack and rainfall could cause mudslides and loosen other large objects and debris throughout the region. Drivers should be aware of these potential hazards this spring and can report road damage by calling 382-6413 or filling out a road repair request form on the county’s website. firstname.lastname@example.org