New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas will meet with a group of local residents to discuss their concerns about a high-speed pursuit and officer-involved shooting near Taos Oct. 28 that is the subject of an internal investigation expected to be completed by the end of the week.
“Improperly using a firearm isn’t tolerated by the State Police,” Kassetas stated in an email to The Taos News Friday (Nov. 22), referring to the daytime chase during which a patrolman fired three rounds at a minivan carrying a Tennessee woman and her five children as they fled a traffic stop for a second time after scuffling with an officer.
Video footage of one patrolman firing at the minivan driven by Oriana Farrell has been shared widely on the Internet since it first aired on an Albuquerque television station Nov. 15. The incident followed three fatal shootings involving state police officers since Oct. 21 that have raised questions about the agency’s policies.
“The investigation will determine if the use of force was appropriate given the circumstances,” Kassetas wrote.
The chief initially declined an invitation from a group of Taos area residents to discuss the incident.
Local organizers planned a march on the Taos substation of the state police Sunday (Dec. 1) to denounce what a statement described as the excessive use of force used by officers during their effort to apprehend Farrell.
The group, organized largely through social media websites such as Facebook, invited Kassetas to personally receive a letter outlining their concerns and demands.
The note demands accountability for the officers involved in the incident while calling for a dialogue between community members and the law enforcement agency.
A spokesperson for the state police told The Taos News Friday that the chief had no intention of attending the march or any events related to the Oct. 28 incident.
But organizers announced Saturday (Nov. 23) the event had garnered the attention of another law enforcement leader.
“Chief [David] Weaver will be in attendance Sunday in a capacity that he will be available to the public for outreach and communication,” organizer Patrick Trujillo stated in an email, referring to the head of the Taos Police Department.
“Anytime any persons want to discuss law enforcement, they can expect me to be there,” Weaver said.
The chief added he had reached out to Kassetas and encouraged him to also address the concerns of local residents.
In a phone call Monday (Nov. 25), Trujillo said that Kassetas had contacted him during the weekend and agreed to meet with a contingent of community members.
“It has shifted to a two-way conversation and we both listened to each other whole-heartedly,” Trujillo said.
The meeting would be a dialogue between the chief and a small group of local residents, he added. The discussion would be closed to the broader public but Trujillo said he hoped the initial meeting would lead to a platform where more people could have input.
“This is not a one-time shot,” he told The Taos News, explaining his desire to establish an agenda and itinerary for further dialogue with the state police.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s march would proceed as planned.
“We believe this issue is important regardless of what the [internal affairs] report does or does not say,” Trujillo said.
Organizers plan to convene outside the Taos Youth and Family Center on Paseo del Canon East at 11:30 a.m. where a briefing and orientation on nonviolent protest will be offered to participants. The march will then proceed approximately one quarter-mile to the state police substation.
Organizers plan to deliver their signed letters before returning to the visitor’s center.