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FARMINGTON, N.M. (KRQE) – A man is facing felony charges following an officer-involved shooting in Farmington last month. Four officers with the Farmington Police Department opened fire on the suspect and it all started with multiple 911 calls about a man walking around downtown with a handgun.
“It was actually, kind of an unusual call for us. It started off as a 911 call. There was a subject, apparently in the downtown area of Farmington that was firing off rounds,” said Chief Steve Hebbe with FPD. “We started getting 911 calls from people who could hear gunshots downtown.”
Throughout the area, different teams of officers found around two dozen casings. However, it took Farmington Police about two hours to track down the suspect.
“We had a lot of officers flooding the downtown area looking for someone and when we thought we saw someone matching the description, we kind of got ourselves organized,” said Hebbe. “We had multiple officers making a response. It’s not typical for us, but it’s probably the way that kind of call would be held.”
Video shows the moment officers finally found their guy, 29-year-old Brian Benally. At first, he appears to be walking away before turning back around with a gun pointed toward officers. Four of the officer quickly fired their guns.
“The number of officers that opened fire is less the issue,” said Hebbe. “What is the issue is are we justified in doing it, whether it’s one officer or four. That’s really the central focus of the investigation, both the criminal and internal, focused on was what the officers responded to, was it reasonable for them to respond in that manner.”
Hebbe says while difficult, all officers were justified, but the shooting is still under investigation. Shortly after the shooting, officers moved nearby witnesses and started giving aid to the suspect, shot in his thighs and torso.
“It was a difficult call because we didn’t know what was going on. We didn’t know if someone would eventually go into one of our businesses and start shooting it up, so our officers were really scrambling hard to find the subject. I think we did a good job in finally getting him contained and making that identification,” said Hebbe. “After the shooting, I think the officers responded just perfectly. They immediately raised up, there were two other people sitting near the subject, they got them moved away, and then they moved in and began life-saving treatment and the subject is still alive today, and I’ll tell you, I think that’s because the officers responded appropriately.”
Benally was transferred to UNM Hospital in Albuquerque for treatment. He faces multiple charges including felony assault on an officer and possession of a firearm by a felon. This isn’t Benally’s first run-in with the law. His rap sheet includes multiple charges of DWI and car theft.
Hebbe says the four Farmington Police officers involved in the shooting are fairly new to the department. This is the first officer-involved shooting for all four.