A grandmother was sitting in her vehicle at approximately 4:45 a.m. last month when a Las Cruces police officer approached and accused her of trespassing. The officer proceeded to yell at her, including the F-word, and threatened to arrest and “make her life ‘a living hell'” if she did not comply with his commands.
Early in their encounter, the woman told the officer that she was simply looking for her keys, which she’d misplaced, after visiting an individual at the address. Video footage from the officer’s body-worn camera confirms this.
The officer and the 45-year-old woman, Teresa Gomez, eventually got into a discussion about why her vehicle was parked outside a public housing complex, with someone in the passenger seat. She told him multiple times she was unaware that the complex had visitor rules.
After the officer told her to get out of the vehicle repeatedly, Gomez got out of the car and stood outside, answering his questions. Her passenger was not told to exit the vehicle nor were they questioned in the same way.
The woman eventually found her car keys and got back into the driver’s seat, with the officer’s permission. 30 seconds later, she started the engine and shifted the car into reverse, with the door still open. She then pulled back and put it into drive.
That’s when the officer yelled three times at her to, “Stop!”. He then fired his gun several times, which was caught on bodycam video.
The Las Cruces Police Department said at least one of the bullets hit the woman. According to the wrongful death suit, she began to gasp for air as blood dripped down her neck. They are currently seeking monetary damages for alleged excessive force, having violated her civil rights.
Despite having been taken to the hospital, she eventually died.
Later that same day, another police officer from the same department turned himself in for a voluntary manslaughter charge, which dates back to August 2022, after he shot a Black man who left a gas station without paying for a can of beer. Raul Torrez, the attorney general confirmed that his actions were “unjustifiable” and that it was an example of “poor police tactics.”
In light of the recent killing, one of the top prosecutors in the state is concerned that there is a pattern of misconduct among the Las Cruces Police Department.
According to Shannon Kennedy, who represents the grandmother’s family, the police department “allowed a culture of aggression to develop”, which ultimately led to Teresa Gomez’s death.
Following the incident, the officer, an 8-year veteran of the police department, was put on paid administrative leave. It was also revealed that he has a history of use-of-force incidents, though none had been fatal.
Despite not having gotten the answers they so desperately looked for, Gomez’s family has put her to rest. According to them, she was a creative individual who enjoyed drawing, coloring, and taking care of her plants.