LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A police officer in New Mexico has been charged with murder after bodycam video showed him fatally shooting a woman while she drove away from him during a traffic stop.
Felipe Hernandez of the Las Cruces Police Department surrendered to authorities on Tuesday and was charged with second-degree murder with a firearm enhancement in the Oct. 3 death of 45-year-old Teresa Gomez, KFOX reported.
Previously released bodycam footage showed him firing at least three rounds after warning Gomez he would “really make her life a living hell.”
“There was no necessity for him to use deadly force,” Doña Ana County District Attorney Gerald Byers said of the officer who was never in the “zone of danger.”
“We looked at self-defense. There was no self-defense.”
Jesus Garcia, 38, was in the car with Gomez during the detention. The officer recognized him as a frequent trespasser on the property during the 5 a.m. encounter.
“Jesus Garcia,” Hernandez exclaims. “Holy f–k, you’re back on the f—ing property!”
Garcia also had a paintball gun in his waistband, according to bodycam video.
The officer then tells Gomez that Garcia has a warrant for his arrest and is not allowed to be on the property. The exchange becomes heated as he threatens to tow the vehicle.
“You don’t listen,” he tells Gomez after she questions why he needs her name. “Because I’m doing a f—ing investigation. You’re just like Jesus Garcia. You want to argue all the time.”
Hernandez previously had Gomez exit the vehicle, but then allowed her back into the car as he was writing down information during the encounter that had lasted about nine minutes, the New York Post reported.
Once she is back in the driver’s seat, she immediately tries to drive away with the door open.
Hernandez fires at least three rounds, while yelling, “Stop! Stop!”
Gomez can be heard screaming as the car comes to rest a few feet away.
Garcia, who was later arrested on multiple warrants, had pending felony drug and burglary charges, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.
Hernandez was placed on administrative Oct. 17, and then taken into custody on Tuesday once prosecutors decided to charge him in Gomez’s death.
Felipe Hernandez was charged with second-degree murder. (Las Cruces Police Department)
“From the very beginning of Mr. Hernandez’s interaction with Ms. Gomez, the ability to manage protocol is non-existent,” said DA Byers. “His interactions with her, just on a human level, was exceptionally subpar and did not meet the standards that LCPD demands of its officers.”
He said Gomez could be seen backing up her car toward Hernandez, but noted the officer was not in the “zone of danger” when he discharged his weapon, KOB reported.
“Teresa Gomez was not a fleeing felon because she did not present a danger to Officer Hernandez or anyone else,” Byers said.
Las Cruces Interim Police Chief Jeremy Story told CNN in November that it “is certainly a matter of concern when there are controversial officer-involved shootings.”
“We take a critical look at training, policy, and equipment after all critical incidents and look for areas of concern that need to be addressed,” Story said. “Any response must be based on objective measures and cannot influence the criminal investigation.”
Gomez’s family has filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit against the city and police alleging excessive force and violation of her civil rights.