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Dotson family expresses anger, calls for police reform in Farmington

Two officers involved in the fatal shooting of Robert Dotson were identified at a news conference
Kimberly Dotson, with her children Julia Dotson and Zach Mora-Dotson, spoke at a news conference April 20 and called for major reform within Farmington Police Department. (Debra Mayeux/The Journal)

Robert Dotson, 52, did not know it was police at the door when they came to his house, 5305 Valley View Ave., shortly before midnight April 5 in response to a domestic violence call.

It was the wrong house.

“They had no business being at the house on the right,” said Shon Northam, one of the family’s attorneys.

The correct house, 5308 Valley View, was across the street on the left, as was pointed out that night by Farmington Police Officer Dylon Goodluck, in a video captured by the family’s Ring doorbell camera. The video was shared by Northam during a Thursday news conference at the Courtyard by Marriott.

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

Goodluck, a rookie officer, was not acknowledged by the other two officers until after the shooting that led to Dotson’s death, according to Northam.

“This horrific night that happened was like a horrible nightmare. This gross act of not being at the right address has taken everything from me. We cannot figure out how to breathe,” said Kimberly Dotson, Robert Dotson’s wife. She said her husband was trying to protect her and their children. “You were ambushed by a firing squad.”

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Three Farmington police officers opened fire on Dotson when he came to the door with a gun that night.

“Robbie never had a chance. He was never told they were there. He didn’t know it was law enforcement,” Northam said. “There is no way, shape, or form Robbie would’ve come to the door with a gun knowing they were law enforcement out there. He simply didn’t know.”

Shon Northam identified officers Waylon Wasson and Dylon Goodluck as two of the officers involved in the fatal shooting of Robert Dotson, pointing out that Goodluck said more than once that they were at the wrong location. (Debra Mayeux/The Journal)

The officer, who led the other two through the gate and to Dotson’s front door, was identified by Northam as Waylon Wasson. He “joined FPD as a community service officer in March 2018 and transitioned to police officer in June 2019,” according to a 2022 news release from the department regarding another officer-involved shooting in which Wasson discharged his firearm.

“Waylon Wasson is a trigger-happy cop,” Northam said.

On June 23, 2022, Wasson attempted to pull over a driver who reportedly was driving recklessly in the 1000 block of Sullivan Avenue. The driver, Ladarius Tinhorn, reportedly “accelerated in the officer’s direction, nearly pinning him against his vehicle and causing minor injuries to the officer. The officer fired, and the car fled,” the news release stated.

The vehicle occupants were not injured in this case.

Northam said the goal is to change “the culture” of the Farmington Police Department.

“The Farmington Police Department has a well-known history in the community of using unjustified deadly force and excessive force and having not been held accountable,” Northam said. He added that he and the family want Farmington City Council to call an emergency meeting to dismiss Police Chief Steve Hebbe.

“We’re calling out the mayor of Farmington, the Farmington City Council, because Steve Hebbe doesn’t have the guts or the courage to fire himself, even though he’s failed time and time again. He’s a coward. He won’t fire himself,” Northam said.

Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett said he wants to see how the New Mexico State Police investigation ends.

“My heart is broken for this family and our community and our police department as well,” he said. “I’m asking our community and the nation as a whole to withhold judgment.”

“We’re a community that has good law enforcement agencies. They’re well trained. They’re doing a good job, and it’s an unfortunate situation that has occurred,” Duckett said. “It’s important to respect that system and see this process play out. Let’s support one another to the best of our abilities and support those who have been impacted.”

The FPD also issued a prepared statement, saying there is an ongoing investigation.

“Our department is committed to cooperating with the New Mexico State Police for a thorough and fair investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Dotson’s death. It is important to let the legal process take its course and not draw conclusions before all the facts are known. We will continue to cooperate with the appropriate agencies and provide updates to the public as the investigation progresses. We will continue to work with transparency and integrity.”

Kimberly Doston expressed her anger and desire for no other family to have to experience a similar tragedy at Thursday’s news conference. (Debra Mayeux/The Journal)

Kimberly Dotson said she was angry, but not anti-police.

“We appreciate the sacrifice that many police officers make every day. However, we want to ensure that this tragedy that has devastated our family does not ever happen again,” she said.

“We are demanding a reform for proper training, de-escalation processes, background screening, mandatory therapy to help them deal with the stresses of their job and annual audits by a community watchdog to review a force of investigations in officer involved shootings,” Kimberly Dotson said.

According to data collected by Mapping Police Violence, New Mexico had the second-highest rate for individuals killed by police, behind Wyoming, with 32 deaths in 2022, a rate of 15.11 people killed by police per million. Dotson is the second person killed by police in 2023 in New Mexico. Mapping Police Violence is a project led by Campaign Zero, a nonprofit that advocates for police reform.

Albuquerque Police Department was responsible for 22 of the shooting deaths, a record number for the department, which led to departmentwide changes in training requirements, according to a recent interview given by APD Chief Harold Medina.

“It’s not a political case. It’s called doing the right thing. The entire world is watching, folks. It’s your move,” Northam said, adding he and the family plan to file a case in federal court once their investigation is complete.

The family will have a private memorial for Robert Dotson Monday, April 24. They are raising funds through a Venmo account and are seeking more information about police-involved shootings through the family’s website, Justice for Robbie Lee Dotson.

Mark Reichel, a criminal and civil attorney from California who has extensive federal and appellate court experience, is one of two attorneys representing the family and estate of Robert Dotson. (Courtesy photo)

The Dotson family’s legal team consists of Mark Reichel and Shon Northam.

Reichel is a criminal and civil attorney out of Sacramento, California. He has tried multiple cases involving civil rights complaints against law enforcement, the most notable of which is United States v. Grubbs, which was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Reichel has been an attorney since 1991, and in that time has handled about 25 cases on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and worked for Office of the Federal Defender in Sacramento for 13 years before entering private practice in 2005. He was not in attendance at Thursday’s news conference.

Northam is a graduate of California Western School of Law and has been practicing law since 1999. He is a former Tehama County, California deputy district attorney. Northam has been a criminal defense attorney since 2006.

According to a State Bar of California license search, Northam’s license to practice law was suspended twice, in 2014 and 2017, for noncompliance with continuing-education requirements. He was also disciplined and placed on two years’ probation in 2015.