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$100,000 Settlement for Excessive Force During Chase of Unarmed Man

by David M. Reutter

The City of Farmington, New Mexico, paid $100,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging a police officer chasing an unarmed man used excessive force by shooting him three times.

Michael Chavez was in a vehicle pulled over on March 22, 2014, for seat belt violations by City of Farmington police officer Chris Blea. When the car came to a stop, Chavez exited and ran. Blea followed in pursuit and radioed for assistance. Officer Dave Monfils responded and picked up the pursuit when Chavez ran around a business complex.

Monfils saw Chavez had a baseball cap in his hand before he lost sight of him. He then heard rapid gunfire as he came upon a parked minivan. He could see through the van that Chavez was backing away from Blea and was moving towards him. Chavez held a small black cellphone in his hand, which Monfils said he thought was a gun. Monfils shot at Chavez's mid mass, but he missed.

After that shot was fired, Chavez turned to run, at which time Monfils recognized the object as a cellphone. He immediately informed Blea not to shoot. Chavez surrendered and was handcuffed. He had been shot three times by Blea. A shot to his right foot made it evident he was running away. He also sustained a bullet to his left flank and left elbow. The shot to the elbow left permanent damage due to loss of bone being blown away.

Chavez's February 27, 2017, lawsuit alleged he was never a threat to the officers or public and that he was never charged with a crime. His civil rights complaint alleged violations of the Fourth Amendment and state law claims.

The City of Farmington agreed to the $100,000 settlement on May 19, 2016. Albuquerque attorney Frances C. Carpenter represented Chavez.

See: Chavez v. City of Farmington, USDC, D. New Mexico, Case No. 15-cv-00171.

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Related legal case

Chavez v. City of Farmington



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