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City of Farmington to pay legal fees for officers involved in death of Robert Dotson

Robert Dotson’s home at 5305 Valley View Ave. Farmington police mistakenly went to Dotson’s home instead of the dispatched address across the street, and in an encounter about midnight April 5, fatally shot him. Debra Mayeux/The Journal
Attorney Luis Robles contends officers’ use of deadly force was justified

The city of Farmington will pay for the legal fees incurred in the defense of the Farmington police officers who went to the wrong address and shot and killed Robert Dotson shortly before midnight April 5.

The Albuquerque-based law firm of Robles, Rael and Anaya, led by Luis Robles, issued an statement April 21 that identified themselves as the legal team for officers Waylon Wasson, Daniel Estrada and Dylan Goodluck. Robles specializes in police liability lawsuits.

“Without question, this is a tragic case. Tragic for the Dotson family, but also for the officers. Even though the officers had to use deadly force to defend themselves from the armed and deadly threats posed by Mr. Dotson. The officers never wanted to shoot Mr. Dotson or at Mrs. Dotson. Sadly, Mr. Dotson created the set of circumstances that gave the officers no real choice but to use deadly force,” Robles said in a new release.

A Farmington Police Department Facebook post identified Robles’ news release as coming from “city of Farmington attorney.” However, Robles is contracted with the city to represent its interests on as needed basis and is not a city attorney. Jennifer Breakell is the city attorney for the city of Farmington.

According to a nearly six-year contract with the city of Farmington, Robles’ firm is on a $50,000 yearly retainer, and Robles earns an additional $175 per billable hour, along with a $75 rate for travel. The contract was approved by the Farmington City Council June 28, 2017, and was signed by former Mayor Tommy Roberts.

“The city of Farmington will be paying the legal fees from the law firm of Robles, Rael and Anaya for the representation of the city’s interests in the matter of Robert Dotson,” Breakell said.

The legal expenditure was included in the City Council-approved annual budget.

“They approve a budget every year and this expenditure is within the budget of the Legal and Claims division for the fiscal year as appropriated by the city council,” Breakell said. “The money is apportioned as incidents and claims arise.”

Dotson’s family spoke at an April 20 news conference, saying they planned to collect evidence and file a civil lawsuit in federal court. A lawsuit has not yet been filed, but the city of Farmington put Robles on the case.

Robles said in the news release that the officers thought they were at 5308 Valley View Ave., the home where a call for service was received by dispatch. Instead, officers were at 5305 Valley View Ave., the Dotson’s home address.

However, on a video released by the Dotson’s family, Goodluck was heard saying the officers were at the wrong address. Bodycam footage released by FPD also showed Wasson ask, “Is this not 5308? That’s what it said right there, right?” and Goodluck responded, “No, it said 5305, didn’t it?”

In a tape provided by Dotson’s attorney, Shon Northam, Wasson is heard saying, “You should have told me we were at the wrong address, Dylan.”

Apr 14, 2023
Video: Chief releases body camera footage of Farmington police shooting

Robles described the officers’ attempt to contact the residents in the news release. “The porch light was on and the officers were all wearing uniforms and badges, clearly identifying them as police. Anyone inside of the home could have easily looked out and seen that there were police officers outside. Anyone inside of the home could have used the doorbell camera to find out that there were police officers outside.”

Robles further stated that Wasson “heard the distinctive sound of someone inside the house rack a firearm,” and the officers feared someone “was preparing to shoot them.” The officers backed away from the door.

“As they did so, Mr. Dotson abruptly swung the door open with a gun in his hand. The officers drew their service weapons and commanded Mr. Dotson to put his hands up. Mr. Dotson ignored their commands and pointed his gun directly at Officer Wasson,” Robles wrote.

Shon Northam, attorney for the Dotson family, reviewed bodycam footage at the April 20 news cofnerence. (Debra Mayeux/The Journal)

Northam said in a prepared statement this did not happen, and the lapel camera video backs up his statement. “When the door is being opened by Robbie, ‘hey’ and ‘heads up’ are being screamed simultaneously with the blinding flashlights at him. There is no announcement of ‘police’ despite more than ample time.”

Robles stated the officers feared for “their lives and safety” and “they had no choice but to defend themselves with deadly force. All three officers fired at Mr. Dotson.”

Dotson died in his home, and Northam called Robles’ statements “gaslighting.”

“Kim Dotson and the entire Dotson family are outraged by the incendiary, inflammatory, and wholly inaccurate version of events portrayed by the Farmington Police Department in their public statement issued on April 21, 2023,” Northam said, adding Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe in a television interview on April 17, stated that “Robbie did nothing wrong at all in the entire matter.”