His last day – Albuquerque Journal

Darian Jarrott with his children Darian Jr., Noah and Ariella. The 28-year-old was fatally shot by a drug trafficker on Feb. 4, 2021, after pulling the man over along Interstate 10 east of Deming. (Courtesy of Alycia Jarrott)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Editor’s note:

A year ago – on Feb. 4, 2021 – officer Darian Jarrott was gunned down while conducting a traffic stop near Deming. What follows is a look at the last hours of his life, based on interviews, police reports, dash and lapel camera videos, dispatch recordings and depositions.

For Alycia Jarrott, it was a morning like any other.

Her fiance, Darian Jarrott, a New Mexico State Police officer, rose before 5 a.m. at the home they shared in Lordsburg. Alycia said she laid out his uniform and followed him into the bathroom, staring at him in the mirror “like a little kid” as he got ready.

Then she lay down again. The morning sickness was already kicking in.

“He was actually running a little bit late that day,” Alycia Jarrott recalled. “… Of course, the last thing he’d always do is make sure he’d give me a kiss and then he’d kiss my belly and say ‘I love you guys’ – and ‘I’ll see you guys when I get home.’”

He never did.

Darian Jarrott

Darian Jarrott, stationed in nearby Deming, was the only State Police officer on duty in the area on that warm, cloudless morning. Another officer had called in sick. And Sgt. Mark Madrid, his supervisor, was at a training in Silver City.

The 28-year-old was posted at mile marker 102 along Interstate 10, a familiar stretch of highway to the officer.

He made a traffic stop and then locked himself out of a loaner police vehicle – his was in the shop. Jarrott called for help and, once he was back inside his vehicle, Madrid called him about a “be on the lookout,” or BOLO, for a man, possibly armed, driving a white truck along Interstate 10 with a load of drugs.

The BOLO was a few days old but still active.

As Madrid would later put it: “no big deal, we deal with that on a daily basis.”

Soon after, Jarrott spotted the truck and told dispatch he was pulling it over.

“White Chevy pickup, one aboard. Can’t tell what state the temp tag is out of,” he says calmly.

One passerby, driving a semitractor-trailer, wondered why the officer was by himself. Through his side mirror, he saw the officer put his hand on his gun.

Another driver was passing by when he saw “a tussle” on the shoulder.

He saw the driver of the pickup truck holding a rifle, heard gunfire and saw the officer fall. The “very distinct smell” of gunpowder filled the air as he passed.

When Jarrott failed to check in, a dispatcher tried repeatedly to hail him over the radio.

“SOCOM 1251, status check on traffic. SOCOM 1251, status check,” her voice wavering slightly. There was no response.

Madrid, who left training early because Jarrott was alone, drove faster as the silence loomed. Within seconds, a Homeland Security Investigations agent picked up Jarrott’s radio.

“You have an officer down, officer down, I-10 westbound near the Akela exit.”

Madrid wondered whether the officer down was a federal agent or Jarrott. He tried to get information, but no one knew what was going on.

The dispatcher called out to all units in the area, “the white pickup truck just left the scene.”

Minutes later, more than a dozen police vehicles went past the semitractor-trailer driver who first saw Jarrott making the traffic stop.

He knew something bad had happened. Then, the white pickup truck sped past him.

When Madrid finally reached the scene, he saw ambulances, a helicopter and medics working on somebody. He “thought it was odd” that a federal agent wearing tactical gear was there. Madrid heard radio traffic of a pursuit toward Las Cruces and, at 12:44 p.m., a medic approached him and told him there was nothing further they could do.

Darian Jarrott, a father of three with a fourth child on the way, was the first State Police officer shot and killed in the line of duty in more than 30 years. The shooter, 39-year-old Omar Cueva, died in a wild chase and gunfight that left a Las Cruces police officer injured.

A subsequent investigation into the incident, along with released dash and lapel camera video, has led to questions about how much Jarrott knew about Cueva – or federal agents’ “high risk” operation to stop him – before he pulled him over.

Those same questions have led Jarrott’s family to file a lawsuit against New Mexico State Police, alleging negligence and that the agency sent the unsuspecting officer into an ambush. The lawsuit was filed by Gabriella Jarrott, his wife and the mother of two of his children, although the two were in the middle of divorce proceedings at the time of his death. She declined to comment for this story through an attorney.

The State Police Office in Deming and the 20-mile stretch of I-10 where Jarrott died on Feb. 4, 2021, will soon bear his name.

‘Endless stream of uniforms’

It was a call from Darian’s niece that alerted Alycia Jarrott that something was wrong. She was told he had been injured.

Alycia Jarrott called his phone over and over.

Alycia and Darian Jarrott were engaged and expecting their first child when the New Mexico State Police officer was shot to death one year ago. (Courtesy of Alycia Jarrott)

His parents broke the news to her soon after. She said all she remembered from that day is an endless stream of uniforms. The nonstop calls and messages. She said she didn’t answer any of them.

Darian had two love notes from Alycia inside his vest when he died, one of which had been laminated. In the other, which was partially covered in blood, she had written, “I love you more and more each day.”

She said the pair had so much planned for the year, looking for a home of their own, putting their daughter’s nursery together.

“For your whole life and your whole future to be ripped away within a few seconds, it’s harsh,” she said in a recent interview. “… People are trying to come over and – I don’t want to see anybody, I don’t want to talk to anybody – I just want to try processing this, because the man I sent to work isn’t coming home.”

In Lordsburg, the town of 2,500 where Darian was raised by his parents, Gloria and John, everyone knows the Jarrott name. Coaches remembered him as a prolific and talented athlete who helped lead the Lordsburg High School Mavericks to a state football championship.

Before graduating in 2010, Jarrott waited tables at the local restaurant Kranberry’s Chatterbox alongside his father. Locals said many of the men in town grow up to be law enforcement and Darian was no different.

Marco Valle, another State Police officer, said he met Jarrott when they were paired up to train for the law enforcement academy’s fitness test. After being accepted, they carpooled from Hatch to Santa Fe each week.

Both men started as transportation inspectors and were sworn in as State Police officers in 2015. Valle said they were stationed in Hobbs and lived in an RV together for a few months before both moved to Carlsbad.

Valle said Jarrott’s positive attitude was contagious.

“He was serious when he needed to be serious but he would also break the ice with his little jokes,” Valle said. He said he couldn’t recall a time he saw Jarrott lose his cool or get “pissed off” on or off duty.

Marco Valle holds Noah Jarrott alongside Darian Jarrott. The two New Mexico State Police officers met in the law enforcement academy before becoming partners and family friends. Valle remembers Jarrott as “levelheaded.” (Courtesy of Marco Valle)

Valle said Jarrott would “put everything aside” to help a friend. Before Valle’s family was able to move to Carlsbad, he said Jarrott and his girlfriend, Gabriella, had him over for dinner “every single day” so he wasn’t alone.

Jarrott, who had a daughter, Ariella, from a prior relationship, went on to have two boys with Gabriella, Noah and Darian Jr. When the couple got married in 2018, Valle served as his best man at the wedding and their families grew close over the years.

As an officer, Valle said Jarrott was levelheaded and thoughtful, recalling his patience with a father during a custody issue they responded to.

“He really wanted to help him out, took his time to listen … when I know other officers would be like ‘OK, OK, on to the next,’ he really cared,” he said.

Valle said Jarrott also “liked being out of his comfort zone” and preferred to work drug seizures and arrests over traffic stops. He said Jarrott’s goal had always been to join the State Police Tactical Team.

In 2020 Jarrott filed for divorce and moved to Deming when a position opened up, but the two men kept in touch. Two days before his death, Jarrott called Valle to tell him about the breakup with Gabriella and seemed a little embarrassed. His friend reassured him.

“I told him ‘there’s nothing to be embarrassed about, life happens,’” Valle said. The two made plans to get together, he wanted to catch up and meet Alycia.

Valle, who worked as part of the State Police drone team, heard about a pursuit on I-10, that an officer had been shot. His captain called and asked if he and Jarrott were close.

“I didn’t think anything of it because that’s the last person I thought that would happen to,” Valle said, adding that Jarrott was a good shot, experienced with weapons and was well trained in traffic stops and in general.

Valle didn’t want to speculate on what went wrong, but said Jarrott was the “perfect example of how people should be.”

“He was confident, but he wasn’t cocky. He wasn’t afraid to do new things, he was a great friend, a great father, a great husband, and he just … it was way too soon,” he said.

Remembered for ‘beautiful smile’

Those in Lordsburg who watched Jarrott grow up remember him for his smile, his devotion to his children and his love for the job. His perfectly pressed uniform and spotless police vehicle was a point of pride for the up-and-coming officer.

Alycia Jarrott, also born and raised in Lordsburg, said she always thought the idea of “love at first sight” was corny and only in movies. Then Darian came along.

She said, in 2020, she was working at the jail and Darian would regularly bring in detainees. It wasn’t long before he asked if she wanted to hang out.

“Darian’s the type of guy that anyone would fall for, to be honest. He was a big gentleman,” she said. “… Especially in uniform, he respected his job and the badge.”

On May 23, for a first date, they went off-roading in her truck and “talked for hours and hours.” They had a shared love of small town thrills like hunting, shooting guns and cruising the dirt roads.

“We were just both on the same page in the same chapter of our life,” Alycia Jarrott said.

From there, they celebrated anniversaries by the month. They dedicated songs to each other – like Luke Combs’ “Forever After All.” They traded love notes constantly, signed with a heart or two puzzle pieces “D & A” locked together. He bought her sunflowers, her favorite, all the time. One day, she gave him a bouquet of colorful roses.

“He’s like … ‘you’re the first woman in my life who has ever bought me flowers.’ And I would always joke with him, ‘well I’d better be the last Darian, I better be the last,’” Alycia Jarrott said.

Darian Jarrott moved from his parents home into her house in September and Alycia Jarrott found out she was pregnant in November. They talked about marriage often. She jokingly told Darian if he proposed with a Ring Pop she would say yes.

Darian Jarrott with his first-born son Darian Rey Jarrott Jr. In February of last year, Darian Jarrott became the first New Mexico State Police officer fatally shot in the line of duty in over 30 years. His family has filed a lawsuit alleging negligence. (Courtesy of Alycia Jarrott)

One day in December he took her for a drive to the “middle of nowhere,” where they danced to music. He got down on one knee and proposed with a blue Ring Pop.

“I was like, ‘so does it not count if I eat it?’ and he was like, ‘I mean, if you want that’s fine.’ So I ate it, but I kept the stick,” she said, with a laugh. He later got her a real ring and the two planned on having a wedding at which they would both wear black.

She said Jarrott had a kind heart that could turn anyone’s day around. And family always came first, particularly his children.

Alycia Jarrott wishes his daughter could have known him. Darian Riley Jarrott was born on July 10.

Alycia misses coming home to him cooking dinner or playing Playstation.

She has a shadow box and it’s filled with every love note. She saved every flower he ever got her. In April she legally changed her last name to Jarrott.

For their one-year anniversary, Alycia Jarrott brought two dozen roses and sunflowers to his grave. She recalled how he would always tell her he was coming back to her, no matter where he went or how far.

She talks to him still when she visits: “Hey I got you your flowers, like I told you.”

At the flower shop, she asked the lady behind the counter if she remembered an officer coming in regularly and buying sunflowers.

“She looked at me, she got teary-eyed and she’s like, ‘Were you the woman he bought them for?’ I was like, ‘Yes, ma’am’” Alycia Jarrott said. “She goes ‘of course I remember him, how could I ever forget? Beautiful eyes and a beautiful smile like that.’ And I agreed with her.”