Following a federal judge’s ruling, the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office has stated that it will not be filing criminal charges against a police officer who was accused of using excessive force when he discharged his weapon against an elderly woman suffering from dementia. The officer had been called to the woman’s residence by her family, who felt threatened by her aggressive behavior. The woman was reportedly holding a knife when the officer fired two shots at her chest.
She did not survive her injuries. The woman’s family then filed two lawsuits, one at the state level and one in federal court. The defendants in both cases were the Las Cruces Police Department and the officer who fired the shots. The family agreed to a $2.75 million settlement in the state case.
Federal court judge says no excessive force was used
Excessive force is legally defined as action beyond what is necessary to restrain or arrest someone. A federal court judge ruled that the officer’s initial behavior toward the woman did not help de-escalate the situation and was inappropriate. However, the judge also ruled that the use of his firearm was not considered excessive force, given the circumstances.
The federal civil appeals process
Considering the federal ruling, the state attorney general has decided not to file charges against the officer. Recourse may be available through the appellate system for litigants who do not receive a favorable ruling in a civil case that is heard in a federal court. Since there are time constraints and other issues to consider when filing an appeal, it is always best to act alongside experienced legal guidance.