I Wrote to the Governor of New Mexico
And then I got a call from the police
I received an unexpected call from an unknown number that gave me pause. I have Google screen my calls, so I knew it must have been a business professional as they stated that they wished to speak to Mrs. Duran. I quickly answered and was introduced to the Captain of the New Mexico State Police Department.
I was wary of the reasoning behind the call. I didn’t know what to expect of Mr. Captain. I was curious enough, so I humored the man. I quickly realized that he was calling because of my correspondence to the Governor.
I’ve heard from the Albuquerque Police Department Detectives, the Office of the Medical Examiner, the County Clerk’s office, four separate lawyers, a victim advocate, and a special prosecutor from the District Attorney’s office. What more could I have to learn from any officials?
The call from the Captain came after a few reciprocal email exchanges took place between a woman from the state office and me. She had reached out to me regarding my original correspondence. Without understanding the context, she quickly referred me to the NM crisis line. I was going to give up there.
She had not heard my plea for change.
I mulled it over for a day, then decided I would challenge that notion. Perhaps it was a miscommunication. I am going to give her the benefit of the doubt. So I reached out with a copy of the original correspondence to the Governor.
Very politely, she responded that she had read my article and was sorry for my loss. She had a fresh understanding of what I was trying to accomplish. So she advised that she would forward me off to a different department with law enforcement.
I brushed it off as I didn’t think I would hear back from anyone. I thought the officers would read my inquiry and soon declare that there was nothing more to be said. My son was legally executed, after all. I know this because, in the official report, it is repeated several times. For good measure, I suppose.
NMSA 1978 Section 3–2–6 Justifiable homicide by public officer or public employee; “Under New Mexico Law, the officer who uses deadly force need not prove the suspect posed a threat of death or great bodily harm to another; he need only offer evidence that raises the possiblity.”
In summary, the law states that if an officer is scared for his life, he can shoot a person without proof of imminent danger. What if that shooting results in a death? Is there a limitation to this excessive force? Should other measures have been taken? There’s no expanding on this law. It’s generalized. This means I would have to go to court to prove the officer was in the wrong for slaughtering my son. He succumbed to his injuries as a result of the nine bullet wounds he endured by a police-issued rifle.
Believe me when I say that I tried to go to court. I tried to sue the bastard. Four lawyers later to include the ACLU stated they wouldn’t take my case. That’s not counting the ones who never responded to my inquiry. I decided to drop it. Not because I didn’t want to fight for my son. Because I knew it was a losing battle. If a lawyer says I have no case because of the broad laws permitting the police to kill so effortlessly, I hadn’t a choice in the matter.
The Captain wanted to hear what I had to say. Granted, he is a New Mexico State Police Captain; he felt he might still be able to help. After a second thought, it probably was a better choice since there is no conflict of interest as there would have been if I spoke to an APD officer.
He asked how he could help. The easy answer would be to resurrect my son. But that is scientifically impossible. So, I decided to take this opportunity to put the ear that I had to good use. I wouldn’t waste my time by bad-mouthing the officer that killed my son. I would use my education and rhetoric to maintain a professional tone.
When emotion takes over, your voice can get lost in translation. I could lose my audience by sounding ignorant and going on an emotional rant.
I previously wrote an article giving my son a voice, giving our family a voice. I included a link to this article in my original correspondence to the Governor of NM. But, I never thought I would be able to speak to an officer about it. I explained how I try to understand the death of my son by APD officer Douglas Moore. I know the logistics of the situation. I know the necessary procedure and the law that allowed this murder to take place without repercussion.
You have to understand; I want the officer to be held responsible for his poor judgment. Whether that be by taking courses for crisis intervention and mental health first aid, doing volunteer work, working with at-risk youth, or whatever the department deems necessary for excessive force causing the death of my son. I want the officer not to be allowed to do this to another person. I want Officer Morris to understand the weight of taking a life, senselessly, taking my son’s life. But I do not wish officer Morris harm. To lose a child is an unimaginable pain that no mother should ever feel. I don't wish the same pain to the officer's mother.
I included a link to the official police report in the article, “His Last Words.” I wanted all the facts to be stated, along with giving my son a voice. A bureaucratic piece of paper does not sum up my son or his voice. I presented this information so that anyone reading the article can make an educated decision on how they feel. The language used in the article, at times emotionally charged, is factual to the events and accurate to the feelings of my family and the community.
We began to discuss my son. The Captain was curious about his mental health and neurological disorder, as well as the traumatic brain injury that Gabe sustained a year before his death. The officer didn’t move right into the shooting event. I got the impression that he wanted to understand the entire scenario and how it played out before that day. It appeared he wanted to further understand Gabe’s life and how living with these issues affected him.
Afterward, we discussed the George Floyd case and the current climate. the Captain shared his views on it. He is disheartened like the rest of the country. He made a point to note that that officer responsible is a “drop in the bucket and does not represent himself or his fellow officers.” He opened up about how it made him feel to be put in the same category as that murderer with a badge. He went on to say that not all officers are like that, and generally, most do their job and serve their community. We discussed the policies already in place at the NM State Police Department surrounding mental health. He advised me that there are training and certification in place to combat such situations that may arise with someone like my son. He assured that the de-escalation methods are practiced first and foremost. The state police record speaks for itself in the low use of force and police shooting statistics.
Last, we discussed the systematic issues and how that may be changing soon within all law enforcement departments. He asked how else he could help, and I wondered if he knew about programs that could help other young adults like my son. Fully functional adults, yet need assistance in other areas. I talked about how one of Gabe’s friend’s parents were calling us scared. They were worried about this happening to their child as most young adults with special needs are very susceptible to falling prey to bad intentions by malicious individuals. The social queues are not perfected and often can be misled by such individuals. I went on to mention how I believe there are other cases where similar situations occurred with persons with mental health, neurological, or other disorders who were killed by the hand of law enforcement. I told him I cannot personally attest with certainty to any except my sons. I find it hard to believe there aren’t. I think such cases were closed without further investigation.
He mentioned a couple of programs he thought might be of interest to my family and me. The Captain also referred me to the critical incident team within his department. They reached out to me as well. And quickly too. Within hours, I received a call from this agency. Like the Captain, this officer was open to dialogue. He was curious about my son’s TBI and neurological disorder. I explained a few of the ticks and involuntary movements, involuntary verbalization experienced by him due to his diagnosis of turrets syndrome. With the second officer, I spoke more into the entire situation surrounding my son’s final day and how he reached that point of distress.
Gabe held a full-time job, was a high school graduate the year prior. Gabe was a functioning adult for the most part. As an adult, we could no longer provide him with the programs and counseling he needed. We couldn’t force him to get help as an adult. Nor did we want to force him at all. The officer and I discussed programs available to all the worried parents, possible support groups that could assist parents of special needs children. It was a starting point at least. He gave me resources, offered his condolences, and gave me his office number if I needed anything else.
The entire experience was challenging to relive the events surrounding the death of my son. The Captain was compassionate and patient. He stayed on the phone with me for what felt like hours. The second officer did as well. The fact that they reached out to me was a step in the right direction. It gives a hint of hope. Both of these officers could have easily read my article and or read the official report and decided it wasn’t worth their time. After all, according to the law, it was counted as a good shooting.
But they didn’t do that.
Instead, they took the time to hear me out, to try to understand the entire situation. They gave resources. The most important thing that I got out of these two conversations is that we discussed the systematic problems in our state and across the country. They were open-minded enough to agree that there is room for improvement and growth. Opening up the dialogue, speaking up about these issues was what I wanted most. These officers will have hung up that phone knowing more about my son and his life. They will perhaps think a second longer when they approach a similar situation.
Change starts with a conversation. I will never get justice for my son. But hopefully, the change will occur, and another family won’t have to lose a loved one tonight.
We must educate, we must inform, and we must persevere to create a better today for tomorrow.