Civil Liberties

Cop Fires Shots at Minivan Full of Kids After Mom Flees Traffic Stop


New Mexico State Police Department/Youtube screengrab

Several New Mexico police officers are under investigation for a routine traffic stop that devolved into a chaotic car chase last month. In their attempt to apprehend an uncooperative driver, the officers smashed a baton through the woman's car window and fired several bullets at the children-filled vehicle.

The incident was recorded by a police dashcam video, which was released last week to KRQE News 13. According to a report from Taos News, the incident started when a New Mexico State police officer pulled over 39-year-old Oriana Ferrell for speeding 16 mph over the limit on a state highway. 

The officer (whose name has not been revealed) approached Ferrell's minivan in what appears to be a calm manner and told her to wait while he returned to his vehicle. Ferrell then sped off, starting a chase. When she pulled over again, the officer returned to the driver's side window visibly agitated.

From ABC News:

When the officer goes to the car a second time he opens the door and demands that Ferrell get out of the car, yelling "Get out of the vehicle right now!"

When she refuses, the officer appears to attempt to pull her out of the car as her five children, ages 6 to 18, according to The Taos News, start screaming in the car.

After a few moments, the woman's 14-year-old son gets out of the car and tries to engage the officer. But the officer pulls his taser and the teenager goes back into the car.

Eventually the woman gets out of the car to talk to the officer, but when he tells her to turn and face the vehicle she tries to run back into the driver's seat of the car. The incident quickly escalates with the woman's son this time engaging the officer. Only after the officer aims his taser at the boy does he run back into the van.

Then things got really intense.

As two back-up officers arrived on the scene, the officer repeatedly smashed his baton through the passenger side window shouting, "Open the door!"

At that point, Ferrell started to drive away. An officer who had just arrived on the scene fired three shots at the back of the minivan. According to a court document, the officer allegedly fired at the rear tires "in an attempt to keep the vehicle from leaving." (Despite the fact that police experts, such as Dr. Daniel Kennedy and Rick Parent, claim that shooting out a moving vehicle's tires is often a dangerous and ineffective way to apprehend a suspect.)

The officers pursued Ferrell in a high-speed chase, reaching 100 mph, until she stopped in front of a hotel and turned herself in. Both Ferrell and her 14-year-old son were arrested at gunpoint without incident.

Ferrell was arrested on five counts of abuse of a child, aggravated fleeing of an officer, resisting an officer, reckless driving and possession of drug paraphernalia (for two marijuana pipes that were found in the car.) Her son was arrested for battery of an officer. 

Ferrell's attorney argued, "If someone ought to be charged with child abuse, it ought to be the New Mexico State Police… We ought to talk about the stupidity and recklessness of shooting at a car that has five children in it."

Watch the video below: