Fallen officer's widow plans wrongful death suit

Apr. 13—The widow of the New Mexico State Police officer killed in the line of duty outside Deming earlier this year is alleging her husband was told to do a dangerous traffic stop but wasn't informed of the suspect's violent history or of the details of the investigation.

Gabriella Jarrott has sent a tort claim notice to the state, one of the first steps in filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

State Police released lapel and dashboard video Friday showing Officer Darian Jarrott pulling over 39-year-old Omar Felix Cueva on Interstate 10. Minutes later, Cueva — armed with a rifle — shoots an unsuspecting Jarrott multiple times, including once almost point blank. Officials said Jarrott had been assisting Homeland Security Investigation agents on an operation when he pulled Cueva over, but they have not released additional details about that investigation or Jarrott's role.

Attorney Sam Bregman, who is representing Gabriella Jarrott, said his understanding is Jarrott wasn't told anything other than to pull Cueva over and ID him.

"State Police and Homeland Security have some questions that they need to answer," Bregman said. "They knew this monster was a violent felon — why didn't they tell that to Officer Jarrott? Why didn't they have backup? Why did they ask him to do a stop when they know (Cueva) has semi-automatic weapons and drugs in large quantities in the vehicle?"

Cueva, who had a history of drug trafficking charges, was on his way to Las Cruces to do a drug deal, officials have said. He was killed in a shoot out with officers shortly after he killed Jarrott.

Bregman has sent a tort claims notice to the state but has not yet filed the lawsuit.

He said he plans to send an additional tort claims notice to Homeland Security by the end of the week.

In response to questions from the Journal — including what Jarrott was told about the investigation and what steps were taken to prepare him to contact Cueva — spokespersons from both the State Police and HSI said they do not comment on pending litigation.

"This investigation is active and ongoing," said State Police spokesman Mark Soriano.

"The investigation is being led by the New Mexico State Police Investigations Bureau."

HSI spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said the fact that the agency isn't commenting "should not be construed as agreement with or stipulation to any of the allegations."

"As part of the Department of Homeland Security's homeland security mission, our trained law enforcement professionals adhere to the Department's mission and values, and uphold our laws while continuing to provide the nation with safety and security," Zamarripa said.

Bregman pointed out that in the videos released by State Police, HSI agents wearing tactical gear are seen arriving just seconds after Cueva speeds away from the scene. He questioned why Jarrott, 28, wasn't provided the same equipment.

"They knew how dangerous (Cueva) was," Bregman said. "They were willing to put on tactical gear to protect themselves, but they weren't even willing to give the courtesy to the State Police officer to tell him what he was about to walk into."

Jarrott left behind three children, and has a fourth on the way.

"This is such a tragic loss and so many people were hurt by this," Bregman said. "The kids are going to grow up with no father and there are very few things worse than that."