LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - 911 calls obtained by ABC-7's New Mexico Mobile Newsroom reveal the man shot and killed by two Las Cruces police officers was a veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Thursday, the office of District Attorney Mark D'Antonio cleared the two police officers involved in the shooting death of 36-year-old Joshua "Josh" Clay Dunne. The actions of the officers were justified, D'Antonio's office announced.
Investigators looking into the police shooting said a relative told officers Dunne was possibly suicidal and could have been armed with a 9 mm handgun and a hunting knife.
In a call to 911, Dunne's wife, Melanie Dunne, told the operator she and her husband "had an argument. He is a veteran who has PTSD and has been suicidal before."
Melanie Dunne also said her husband "told me not to call the police because he would get into a shootout with the cops." The woman went on to tell the operator her husband had a 9mm handgun and a "sharp hunting knife."
Officers were dispatched to Dunne's residence shortly before 4 p.m. Friday, December 2, 2016. When they failed to locate Dunne, they began looking for the gray Toyota 4-Runner Dunne was reportedly driving.
About an hour later, an LCPD officer located the 4-Runner at the Sleep Inn at 2121 S. Triviz Dr. The officer learned Dunne had rented a room on the third floor of the hotel.
Police say the officer tried negotiating with Dunne for several hours beginning at around 5 p.m. The SWAT and Hostage Negotiation teams eventually arrived at the scene, but Dunne allegedly refused to cooperate and refused to exit the hotel room, police said.
According to D'Antonio's office, Dunne eventually exited the hotel room and pointed a gun at two officers outside: Sgt. Cody Austin and Officer David Rodriguez. The officers fired their weapons, striking Dunne five times.
Dunne was transported to Memorial Medical Center where he died as a result of his injuries.
"I do know that he was in crisis and that's the area where he wanted to go, we had responded accordingly and it kind of changes matters, he's not in his private residence versus a public place where he could harm someone else too so we had to respond the way we did," Las Cruces Police Chief Jaime Montoya said.
In an interview Friday, Chief Montoya said he felt the actions of the officers were justified.
"We spent numerous hours talking to Josh and trying to get him to come out so time is always on our side and we always like to have that time to talk to people and communicate with them. The officers in this case and the officers doing the negotiations with Josh did an excellent job, just talking to him and talking about his life, talking about what could be done to get him out of the room and resolve the situation," Chief Montoya said.
The officers were put on administrative leave for theee days, which is standard policy. Chief Montoya says it gives the department time to continue the investigation and talk to the officers. They're also required to talk to a police psychologist.
"I really feel there are no winners when it comes to anything involving officer-involved shootings. Some people think officers go through the shooting and they go about their days and they don't think about it. It affects them. It not only affects the officer but it affects the family, because the family has to go through this," Chief Montoya said.
Chief Jaime Montoya says officers complete at least 80 hours of extensive training in communicating with people and dealing with those in a crisis or suicidal. In fact, Chief Montoya says the majority of their calls are people in a crisis.
"I think every call dealing with mental illness or people in crisis is unique in itself. There are some calls that are very dynamic, you go in there and you have to react. There are other calls where you can spend time," Chief Montoya said.
Chief Montoya says each case is unique.
"Sometimes you have the option, you have the luxury of talking to someone and trying to talk them out and other times you have to react immediately to what's being presented to the officers."
When asked why officers used deadly force, Chief Montoya referred to Graham vs. Connor, a 1989 Supreme Court case that ruled police force "must be objectively reasonable."
"If someone pulls a gun on you, it's not reasonable to pull a taser. If someone is pulling a deadly weapon, you respond with a deadly weapon and sometimes people don't understand that," Chief Montoya said.
Chief Montota adds there have been times where officers didn't respond with a weapon, because the subject did not point a gun at officers.
"Having a gun in someone's possession we probably will be justified in responding with deadly force because to move from a down position to an up position is lightning quick and you really can't respond in time so each situation is unique and we depend on the officers to make that judgement call," Chief Montoya said.
ABC-7 has learned a tort claim has been filed by the family of Josh Dunne, which gives the family a right to file a lawsuit against the city.