SANTA FE, N.M. (Legal Newsline) – The minor children of an Albuquerque man fatally shot by an Albuquerque police officer in 2010 have the right to sue the Albuquerque Police Department and the city, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled earlier this month.
In the opinion written by Justice Edward Chavez and released June 19, the court determined that a wrongful death suit could be brought on behalf of the children of Mickey Owings because the APD police officer did not have immunity from the state’s Tort Claims Act, as the city alleged.
The case stems from the March 29, 2010, death of Owings, 26, who was shot at a parking lot when he tried to pull his vehicle away from a police officer that was blocking his way. The officers were surveilling a suspected stolen car parked next to Owings’ vehicle. After an individual exited Owings’ car, approached the suspected stolen car and returned, police officers called in another unmarked car to block Owings.
According to the court’s opinion, Albuquerque Police Officer Kevin Sanchez approached Owings’ vehicle on foot, gun drawn.
“Officer Sanchez drew his gun and pointed it at Owings as he continued to approach Owings’ car,” Sanchez wrote. “Owings drove away once Officer Sanchez began shooting at his car. Ultimately, Officer Sanchez shot and killed Owings during this encounter.”
A grand jury determined the shooting was justified and exonerated Sanchez.
In 2014, attorney Joe Kennedy of the Kennedy Law Firm filed the wrongful death suit against the city on behalf of the children's loss of their father.
A district court dismissed the lawsuit after the city filed a motion to dismiss, saying the plaintiffs did not comply with the Torts Claims Act rules. The New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled that the district court judge was wrong to dismiss the complaint because the children did not suffer a battery.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the appeals court’s decision.
"We hold that plaintiffs in this case may bring the claim for loss of consortium damages independent of the underlying battery claim,” Chavez wrote.