Tucumcari chief too quick to act with stun gun

Freedom New Mexico

Tucumcari Police Chief Roger Hatcher said there were “a lot of issues” that led to his shooting a teenage girl with two Taser darts last week:

She was running away from police, through traffic without looking, he said. She had committed a delinquent act, maybe even bloodied her mother’s lip. The chief “had to get her stopped,” he said.

But since when is it OK to shoot someone with darts for merely running from police?

Hatcher overreacted. And the city was right to place him on administrative leave while his actions are investigated by an independent agency.

The 14-year-old girl was hospitalized after one dart struck her head (the other hit her in the hip). Luckily, the girl’s mother believes her daughter will be OK.

The force of the aggressive response exhibited by this veteran law officer — Hatcher served two terms as Curry County sheriff before this — was uncalled for, and easily could have been avoided.

There’s no doubt the teenager was at the center of a lot of drama last Thursday. The girl’s mother, Stacy Akin, said they argued about a cell phone and she drove her daughter to the police station and asked officers to intervene. The girl then ran away from police headquarters.

Teenagers can be troublesome.

At Akin’s request, Hatcher went in search of the girl and found her at a city park. But when he tried to talk to her, she ran away, into a street, without looking for traffic, Hatcher said. He chased her but couldn’t catch her. So he stopped her with the stun gun.

“I didn’t have another choice and had to get her stopped,” the chief said, because he didn’t know where she was going and she had run out in traffic without looking.

Hatcher is wrong. He had another very logical and obvious choice: Quit chasing her and find her later.

We suspect she would have stopped running as soon as police stopped chasing her. As for where she might have gone, that’s anybody’s guess, but most rebellious teenagers end up at a friend’s house, or even back home after they chill out.

At any rate, it’s hard to hide for long in a town the size of Tucumcari.

We understand law officers have to make split-second judgment calls sometimes in attempts to keep the peace or prevent injury, and extreme force is called for immediately. This wasn’t one of those times.

If the girl had been attacking someone with an ax, or threatening suicide, or robbing a liquor store, then the chief would have been justified in using the force of a stun gun.

This girl, who was not charged with any crime and posed no apparent danger to anyone, was having a fight with her mother and tried to run away from the situation.

Hatcher should have let her run.