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NM police officer opens fire on van full of children

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It started with a traffic stop for speeding in New Mexico - but in a matter of minutes it escalated into a dangerous situation for a Memphis mother, her children and police.

The entire ordeal is caught on dash camera video.

New Mexico state police said they pulled over Oriana Farrell, 39, when she was caught doing 71 in a 55 mph zone. After arguing with an officer over a ticket, she drove away and that's when things took a turn for the worse. About a mile down the road, she pulled over again. This time the officer was less than pleased and ordered her to get out of the vehicle.

That's when you see Farrell struggle with the officer. In the background, you can hear her five kids scream as she scuffled with police.  Then, Farrell's 14-year-old son got out of the van. He quickly got back in when the officer threatened him with a stun gun.

The officer then told Farrell she is facing evading charges and warned her not to run again. She told him she pulled over and denied running away. Farrell mentioned her children in the car and told the officer there were on a trip to the Rio Grande.

The officer tried to arrest Farrell again, but this time her son jumped out of the car and rushed the police officer. The officer called for backup. As soon as it arrived, Farrell jumped back in the van and took off again. The back-up officer opened fire on the van as it sped away – with children as young as 6 years old inside.

"His actions in that particular case were completely unreasonable - in shooting at the vehicle," said Phoenix defense attorney Mike Black.

He told CBS 5 News that Farrell clearly broke several laws, but that better measures could have been taken to stop her.

"There was help that came along," Black said. "They certainly could've followed that vehicle at a reasonable distance, because she's going to stop at some point. They could've radioed ahead to put down spikes."

Instead, officers engaged in a four-minute, high-speed chase that ended when Farrell pulled over in front of a hotel.

They arrested Farrell and her 14-year-old son.

New Mexico media outlets report that Farrell was in the state for an educational trip. That same report says Farrell faces five counts of abuse of a child, aggravated fleeing an officer, resisting an officer, reckless driving and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Farrell's son was charged with battery of an officer and resisting arrest. The rest of the children were placed in the custody of family friends in New Mexico.

Black said the officer who fired the shots likely won't face criminal charges. But, if he had hit a child in that car, he and the state could have been held liable in civil court.

"There was no danger that would've warranted that type of response from him," said Black. "My assessment is it's just poor training on his part to use deadly force in that situation, when there were other alternatives that were less dangerous that were available for him to use."

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation) contributed to this report.

 

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