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State Police: Fed plan was flawed ahead of fatal stop


The plan to arrest a suspected drug smuggler was flawed and failed to adequately value the life of a New Mexico State Police officer who was shot to death by that suspect, according to a report released March 13.

The report, drafted by an internal review committee of NMSP officials, examined the events leading up to the interaction between Omar Cueva and officer Darian Jarrott on Feb. 4, 2021, and made several criticisms and recommendations to change departmental policy. The report also provided details about Jarrott’s life, goals and policing experience before his death.

“Omar Cueva-Felix killed Officer Jarrott in cold blood, and unfortunately, we cannot change that,” NMSP Chief Troy Weisler said in a statement attached to the report. “The highlighting of mistakes by different individuals involved in the incident and noting areas for improvement is done solely to learn and find ways to operate more safely.”

As shown in dashboard camera video released by state police, Cueva killed Jarrott during a traffic stop on Interstate 10 near Deming. A supervisor told Jarrott to pull Cueva over but gave no information about his criminal history, his drug smuggling, or the fact he armed himself with a semi-automatic weapon.

“No NMSP representatives were a part of any briefing for this operation,” the report said.

Cueva then fled east into Las Cruces before beginning a chaotic shootout with Las Cruces Police Department officers. The incident ended when an LCPD officer fatally shot Cueva after Cueva shot him.

Lawsuits against the state and federal government alleged that Jarrott had no way of knowing that federal agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) had tracked Cueva for weeks, suspected he had armed himself with a semi-automatic rifle, and had set up a sting operation to arrest Cueva.

“HSI Tactical plans were flawed based on the suspect’s criminal history, the totality of the investigation, and the priorities of protecting life,” the report said. “These plans led to improper tactical decision-making on how to conduct the traffic stop.”

Jarrott’s family filed two lawsuits against the state of New Mexico and the federal government.

The state agreed in 2023 to pay out about $523,000 (with about $341,000 going to the family and the rest going to attorneys) after the family alleged the actions of the state led to Jarrott’s death. A federal judge dismissed a similar federal lawsuit the same year. In that case, a federal judge ruled the government could not be held liable based on the doctrine of qualified immunity.

The full report can be read here.

New Mexico State Police, suspected drug smuggler, Officer Jarrott, Darian Jarrott, Homeland Security Investigations