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Roybal-Mack to Defend Officer Elias Montoya for Wrongful Termination

Story by By Alex Goldsmith and video from KRQE News 3

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The attorney for a state cop fired last week for shooting at a minivan full of kids tells News 13 her client deserves his job back.

The incident happened in late October during a traffic stop that became chaotic. It started when Memphis mom Oriana Farrell drove off before rookie New Mexico State Police officer Tony DeTavis could give her a ticket.

After Farrell pulled over again, DeTavis tried to get her out, initially unsuccessfully. When DeTavis tried to arrest her, Farrell bolted and her 14-year-old son rushed the officer to defend his mom. The teen ran back into the minivan and DeTavis started bashing in the back window with a baton. Then Farrell started driving off again.

As that wild scene continued unfolding, Officer Elias Montoya arrived and ran to the back, drawing his duty weapon beforefiring three shots at the fleeing minivan.There were five kids inside, one as young as six.

On Friday, the decision to fire his weapon cost Montoya, a 12-year veteran officer, his job. In a statement,Gov. Susana Martinezsays she backs Montoya’s termination as the right thing to do.

But Montoya’s attorney, Antonia Roybal-Mack, disagrees and says Montoya will appeal to get his job back.

Roybal-Mack says she’s still looking at evidence to build Montoya’s case, but points out that Montoya had limited information when he arrived on scene.

In a police report, Montoya says he heard his fellow officers talk about a gun as he ran toward the back of the minivan.

“He only had split seconds to make a decision of how he was going to protect his other officers on the scene as well as the community at large,” Roybal-Mack said.

Montoya said in his police report he was firing at the tires of the minivan and not at the people inside. It’s unclear if he knew children were inside the vehicle.

News 13 asked Roybal-Mack if Montoya, a father of three himself, had any regrets about the shooting in hindsight. Roybal-Mack declined to comment.

In November, Taos DA Donald Gallegos said none of the officers would becriminally charged for the incident.

Farrell was charged with felony fleeing and felony child abuse for putting her kids at risk. Her trial is set for April.