The Santa Fe New Mexican has won a victory in case involving public access to records.
A state district court judge has ruled for the paper and the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government against the city of Rio Rancho, the New Mexican reported.
The records concern the December shooting death of a Santa Fe police officer’s two-year-old son.
Lincoln Harmon, the son of officer Jonathan Harmon, was struck by a bullet that came from officer Harmon’s gun, which discharged while being wielded by the child’s four-year-old brother, the paper reports.
The paper writes that initial incident reports and 911 calls are routinely released as public records in cases not involving police officers.
But Rio Rancho refused to produce the call and other records in response to requests from The New Mexican and other media outlets. It cited state Children’s Code protections that usually cover abuse and delinquency cases.
Judge James A. Noel ordered Rio Rancho to release the records, rejecting the Children’s Code argument, and to pay “reasonable attorney’s fees and costs” estimated by one of the plaintiff’s attorney as $40,000.
The Children’s Code cited as the sole grounds for denying the requests for release do not authorize “a law enforcement agency to withhold its own investigative reports or 911 recordings from public inspection,” Noel wrote.