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Dispatch recording reveals confusion during Farmington police shooting

Questions remain in state investigation after police went to wrong address, killed man
5305 Valley View Ave., where police attempted to mistakenly make contact with the resident regarding the reported domestic violence situation, was where Robert Dotson, 52, was shot and killed. (Debra Mayeux/The Journal)

Release of 911 audio and radio traffic during the April 5 officer-involved shooting in Farmington provides insight into a sequence of errors and confusion surrounding the shooting, which left one man dead after police responded to the wrong home in a domestic violence call.

Robert Dotson, of 5305 Valley View Ave., was fatally shot by police officers. He was 52. His teenage daughter reported the shooting.

Shortly before midnight April 5, police officers mistakenly responded to the wrong house during an investigation of a reported domestic abuse. They were called to 5308 Valley View Ave. but went to 5305 Valley View Ave., where Dotson, his wife and two children lived.

Apr 7, 2023
Farmington police chief: Officers shoot, kill wrong man
Apr 7, 2023
Update: Neighbors respond to police shooting in Farmington

A recording of the dispatch calls obtained by The Journal reveals that a man initially reported the domestic violence at about 11:35 p.m. but refused to provide his address. A woman involved in the situation twice provided the address of 5308 Valley View Ave.

Dispatch then called officers to the home at 5308 Valley View Ave. An officer checked in at 11:48 p.m., but did not specify when police units arrived on scene. Officers knocked on the Dotsons’ door without a response, then attempted to confirm the address with dispatchers. Dispatch again provided the 5308 address at 11:49 p.m.

Twenty seconds later, officers reported shots fired.

And after an additional 38 seconds, officers reported someone was down. Twenty seconds later, gunshots again were reported, and backup was requested.

At 11:51 p.m., less than two minutes after shots were reported, Robert Dotson’s daughter called 911. Poor call quality created confusion as the 911 operator attempted to confirm whether the daughter was at the address of the shooting or in a neighboring house. Further confusion occurred when the caller and operator had difficulty hearing each other, and it was initially unclear whether the father shot at police or had been shot.

5308 Valley View Ave. The location of the original domestic violence call on April 5, 2023. (Debra Mayeux/The Journal)

The daughter provided the address of 5305 Valley View Ave. and confirmed that her father had been shot, but the correct address of the shooting was not communicated with dispatch until 2:51 a.m. April 6, according to obtained audio records.

When asked about 911 call procedure, Nicole Brown, director of San Juan County Communications Authority, said the most important information for operators to verify at the beginning of a call is “the where. So, the location. So, that is the first question that we ask.”

Brown also mentioned that because a variety of factors can affect call quality, such as poor cellular service and background noise on both ends of the call, operators are trained to ask callers to repeat information multiple times to confirm crucial details such as location.

This procedure was followed in all 911 calls made in regards to the shooting April 5, according to audio files obtained.

Brown explained that an officer might cite a location’s confidence factor, which refers to a meter radius. She said it is determined by how a “phone is pinging off of different area towers, and it will narrow down where that phone call is coming from.” Brown said it is not exact, but the lower the number, the more accurate it is. The confidence factor of the original domestic violence call April 5 was six.

In a video released on Facebook, Chief Steve Hebbe confirmed that Robert Dotson, 52, was shot and later died during the April 5 officer-involved shooting. (Image from the April 6 video statement)

Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said officers have cellphones and computer mapping to locate a scene of a dispatch call, but they have no system that is directly linked or correlated to dispatchers.

Hebbe also confirmed that officers involved in the April 5 shooting were placed on administrative leave.

“The officers, which is standard for us, are on administrative leave at least until the time of their statement, which we expect by at least late next week,” Hebbe said. “Then, we will see how the investigation is going with state police before we change their status.”

“We will not be confirming the names of the officers until the state concludes the interviews,” he said. “We’ll release and confirm the names after they have been interviewed.”

He added that the officers had been on duty for about an hour before the shooting. A standard night shift begins at 10:30 p.m. and is about 10 hours long.

He said the involved officers were trained at the “Owen-Landeck Training Center at Safety City,” which is in Farmington, and that the department remains short-staffed, needing “approximately 15 officers to be fully staffed.”

A RECORDED TIMELINE OF THE SHOOTING
April 5: the initial 911 call

11:34:44 p.m. Original 911 call reports domestic violence. A male made the call. A female involved provides the address, clearly stated as 5308 Valley View Ave. once, and stated the address again, which was more difficult to hear.

11:36:34 p.m. Units are dispatched to 5308 Valley View Ave. for possible “57” domestic violence.

11:48:31 p.m. Unit checks in.

11:48:34 p.m. Officers ask dispatch to call the reporting person, Jackson, back and ask him to come to the door.

11:48:43 p.m. Dispatch confirms no one has come to the door. Officer requests dispatch call the reporting person back and come to the door. Dispatch confirms he will attempt contact.

April 5: confusion about address, and shots are fired

11:49:22 p.m. Officer asks for confirmation of address. Dispatch confirms 5308 Valley View Ave. and states there was a confidence factor of six related to the address.

11:49:42 p.m. Shots fired reported by officer.

11:49:52 p.m. Dispatch relays shots fired at 5308 Valley View Ave.

11:50:06 p.m. Officer reports they are backing up.

11:50:20 p.m. Officer reports, “We have one down.”

11:50:40 p.m. Officer reports shots fired again and calls for backup support, saying, “We need units now.”

11:51:14 p.m. Officer says he is on the corner of Largo Street. He states there are two occupants, male and female.

11:51:21 p.m. A young female, later identified as Dotson’s teenage daughter, calls 911 and reports that she thinks someone shot her dad. The 911 operator has difficulty hearing her because of poor call quality and identifies herself several times. The daughter says her mom is “still in there” and “someone’s shooting and shot my dad.” After the operator calms the daughter down, the daughter says, “I hear banging, and I hear gunshots.”

The operator states that there is police activity in the area and the caller should stay inside the house. The daughter says, “OK, I, there were, there were gunshots in the house, and my dad is shot.” The operator repeats that there is police activity and that the caller should stay in the house.

The daughter reports that her mom was screaming and she doesn’t know if her dad is OK.

At 1:48 of the call, the operator asks the caller what house number she is calling from, and the daughter provides the address of 5305 Valley View Ave. At 1:56 into the call, the operator asks the caller to confirm that everyone is safe inside her home.

The daughter says, “My mom’s safe but my dad’s, my dad’s shot.” The operator asks, “You think your dad shot at the officers?” The daughter responds, “Yeah, cause I don’t hear him screaming.” After identifying the caller and her father, the operator asks, “Do you know why he would have shot at officers?” The daughter says, “He didn’t shoot at officers. People shot at my dad.” The call lasts for 9 minutes 15 seconds until officers contact the daughter and son.

11:51:37 p.m. An officer asks dispatch for the address of “shots fired in Farmington,” and dispatch provides the address of 5308 Valley View Ave.

11:51:38 p.m. A male calls 911 and states he heard “15 or so gunshots down on Largo Street.”

11:51:40 p.m. An officer says, “They took shots at us. Get behind your units.”

11:52:07 p.m. An officer says, “We can still hear the female crying inside. The male I saw go down.”

11:53:46 p.m. An officer requests to “stage medics.”

April 6: Robert Dotson is pronounced dead

12:00:10 a.m. An officer states they can “22” medics. The subject is “10-7.”

12:00:26 a.m. An officer requests that Valley View Avenue be secured and all traffic be denied.

12:01:39 a.m. A request is made to “cancel armor.”

12:01:54 a.m. Police officers Goodluck, Estrada and Wasson are called to an officer’s vehicle.

12:50:42 a.m. It is reported, “He just got moved.”

12:51:50 a.m. It is confirmed that all officers are uninjured.

April 6: Correct response to original call

02:25:24 a.m. Officers begin responding to the original domestic violence call at 5308 Valley View Ave.

02:51:14 a.m. An officer responding to the original domestic violence call confirms that the officer-involved shooting occurred at 5305 Valley View Ave. Sgt. Lamonica is referenced as the officer who will notify dispatch about the correct address of the shooting.