Police Shoot At Minivan With 5 Children and Their Mom Inside

New Mexico State Police flagged down a mother of five in her minivan on October 28 for driving 71 mph in a 55 mph zone. She argued with a police officer about a ticket and drove off. But did the police then have to fire three shots into the minivan, especially as they knew there were children inside?

Certainly not, as attorney Alan Maestas, who is representing the mother, Oriana Ferrell, made clear at a November 12th hearing in Taos. Ferrell, who is from Memphis, Tennessee, faces charges of intentional abuse of a child and aggravated fleeing of a law enforcement office for the October incident.

As Maestas says in the Taos News, Ferrell “was flat-out scared that something was going to happen to her children. We ought to talk about the stupidity and recklessness of shooting at a car that has five children in it.”

Some contend that Ferrell put her children into danger by fleeing and that the police were justified in their actions. But Eighth Judicial District Judge Jeff McElroy, who has reviewed a portion of dashcam footage of the pursuit, said he found it “disturbing and puzzling” and that “the court is concerned about the nature of these charges. It’s a bit of a mystery.”

Ferrell Was Cited and Drove Off But Did Police Have to Shoot?

As the Taos News relates, Ferrell, who homeschools her children (aged 6-18), was taking them on a trip to see the Rio Grande. After a New Mexico officer stopped her for speeding, she drove off after “declining to pay the fine or return to Taos to contest it before a judge.”

It was during the second encounter between Ferrell and the police that “a struggle ensued,” says the Taos News. Ferrell pulled over after about a half mile and the officer tried to force her from her vehicle. As court documents relate, Ferrell told the officer,

“Sir, I pulled back over, I didn’t run away You see my children. I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m just trying to take them to the Rio Grande.”

Ferrell’s 14-year-old son tried to intervene, only to return to the minivan after the officer produced a taser.

The Taos News recounts what next occurred and what Judge McElroy found a “mystery”:

Two other officers arrived, according to court documents, and the family locked themselves inside the vehicle. The arresting officer wrote that he smashed the passenger side window with his baton before Ferrell drove away again. A colleague fired three rounds at the rear tires “in an attempt to keep the vehicle from leaving,” he wrote.

The officers pursued Ferrell down State Highway 518 before turning north on State Highway 68 and proceeding at speeds of up to 100 mph, according to court documents.

After Ferrell stopped in front of the main entrance to Hotel Don Fernando, she and her 14-year-old son were arrested at gunpoint without incident. The four other children were placed in the custody of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department and then with a family known to Ferrell.

Ferrell has been held at the Taos County Adult Detention Center. Deputy district attorney Emilio Chávez says that Ferrell had “little reason to flee during the traffic stop.” To be released, he says that a $10,000 bond with 10 percent to the court should be issued, that she undergo regular drug screening and that she maintain residency in New Mexico; Chávez also noted that Ferrell had prior arrests for driving while intoxicated.

Maestas has instead requested a $10,000 unsecured bond for Ferrell. Noting that state officials had spoken of sending her children to their father in Atlanta should Ferrell remain in detention, Maestas suggested that he was abusive, adding that “these kids just want to stay together and sending them to dad isn’t the answer.” Ferrell says that she certainly plans to remain in New Mexico while contesting the charges.

At the November 12th hearing, Maestas emphasized that it was really the police who had endangered Ferrell’s children when they fired at her minivan. Indeed, two officers are now under investigation for their actions back in October. As Maestas says, Ferrell acted out of fear for her children and that “if someone ought to be charged with child abuse, it ought to be the New Mexico State Police” — not their own mother.


Photo via Thinkstock


Raynette O'Keeffe

Surely the police could have handled this without firing at the van with the children.

Brad H.
Brad H.3 years ago

I hope nobody mentions Hitler...

Brad H.
Brad H.3 years ago

All this debate just feeds the mental illness possessing Oriana Ferrell.

She went out of her way to get the police to react, and they fell into her trap. First she dragged in one police officer, then she dragged in the back up, then everyone on the highways had to get out of her way. Then she dragged in the prosecutor, a grand jury, a judge, a public defender, the court clerk, the bailiff, and the corrections officers.

It is all one big drama with her, the queen of the drama, as the center of attention. And such outrage! She has cast herself as the poster child of free speech and good mothers! This is an issue of police brutality and "militarization"! It could even be (gasp!) racial! And "the media have been authorized to defame [her] with erroneous partial truths!"

Guys and gals, this untreated mental patient is set to cause even more trouble as she heads into court with her defiance completely intact. I suggest we stop playing her game by pretending this has anything to do with anything other than a disorder of her central nervous system.

Marc P.
Marc P.3 years ago

Michael C. You state "Unfortunately over 140 officers die in the line of duty each year....." Lat year police killed 320 people. And there ARE no statistics of how many of these victims were actually innocent, unarmed, minorities, or children. Why are there no statistics??? Because the Bureau of Justice Statistics and other agencies started keeping track of this info in the 1980's. The results were so 'embarrassing' for police (Translation: ALARMING to citizens!) that all statistic taking of these types of shootings were stopped. The Government does NOT want you to know how many innocents are murdered by police every year.

Marc P.
Marc P.3 years ago

And YES the woman was a complete idiot. The officer was far more of an idiot for putting the children in danger. Police job is "To Serve and Protect." This officer failed miserably.

Marc P.
Marc P.3 years ago

I see that the government paid propagandists have shown up en masse here to defend a cop for shooting at children while blaming the mother. Let me ask you Fascist punk ass bootlicks a question. How is it that the MOTHER is such a bad person for simply driving away, but the cop is the 'good guy' for SHOOTING AT CHILDREN??? You people have logic that is completely twisted. As for 'glass pipes' being found and all these comments; In this country, like it or not we are innocent unless (Until lately with this crowd...) proven guilty. There is NO evidence proffered in any story yet that shows she was high on crack. You are making up excuses to defend the fascist police and your twisted ideology that police can do no wrong and we are all slaves to them. When police can shoot innocent children and citizens, beat people, plant evidence, lie on the stand and do so many more things with impunity that you anti American creeps endorse, what is the difference between them and a slave owner? The tazer is the new whip. The gun is the new gallows.

Ken O.
Ken O.3 years ago

Susan T, they were "glass pipes" and though there are glass pot pipes glass is the preferred choice for crack addicts. Did you see the video? Still don't think she was high? The woman is a complete idiot. You need to apprise yourself of the escalation of force steps that are used. The last one is "use of deadly force" which comes after a suspect that refuses to comply, then becomes aggressive to the officer which allows him to use violent means to suppress the individual, then comes escaping then it's obvious that the woman is a danger to herself, the public and her children. She escalated every one of them and is lucky her stupid son wasn't shot dead as he clearly attacked the officer and there was no way the officer could have known the moron didn't have a knife, or a gun. Sorry but the Cops are all on solid ground on this one, and no one hates saying that more than I do.

Susan T.
Susan T.3 years ago

end of my post

Also not really sure where you getting this idea that 20 years ago it became more easy to express one's opinion??? Do you mean on the Internet? Because the First Amendment is almost 250 years old.

Don't be so condescending next time.

Ken O - they were NOT crack pipes they were marijuana pipes and there is no indication that ANYONE thought she was high. A little off center I agree but not high.

Susan T.
Susan T.3 years ago

Brad H - nothing personal but you are wrong about my point.

The cop who shot at her car was acting as though this was a very serious violent offense that had been committed by Ferrell - an offense so egregious it warranted putting peoples lives in danger by firing shots at the car. Perhaps "capitol offense" is hyperbolic, but the term was used as a bit of sarcasm, which I guess you did not understand.

And yes I do believe that the militarization of the police IS relevant to this case, as it involves seeing a violent criminal when someone has committed relatively minor offenses - in this case, speeding (not even worth mentioning) and resisting arrest (extremely stupid but not a major threat to society). BTW using tanks is hardly "modern". I was primarily referring to the mentality that has come out of the post 911 militarization of the police - specifically, seeing citizens as much greater threats than they really are because the police have been taught to SEE threats everywhere.

And no, policing is NOT "more accountable" since 911 - not sure what universe you are living in. Police pepper sprayed and beat Occupy protesters in NYC and other cities, and received no ore than a slap on the wrist. In CA, a cop pepper sprayed a group of students doing a sit down protest about tuition hikes with military grade pepper spray for no real reason. And yes there is a difference between military grade pepper spray and "normal" pepper spray.

Also not really sure where you getting

Linda G.
Linda G.3 years ago

Are you kidding me? The mother is a complete idiot and should not have custody of those children. There were two people (mother a teenage son) against one police officer and coming out of the van to confront the officer WAS WRONG. She endangered the lives of everyone involved. Being afraid? Come on. What a crock. Charge her to the fullest extent of the law and show people that when you are stopped by police, you stay in your vehicle, take the ticket, respect the officer and deal with the ticket later. THE MOTHER WAS 100% WRONG.