An off-duty law enforcement officer in Roswell, New Mexico, pointed a gun at a driver during a road rage incident. The driver, identified as Rosales, legally passed a pickup truck while driving home in his Ford Mustang. The driver of the truck began tailgating Rosales, causing him concern. Despite Rosales’ attempts to evade the truck, it continued to follow him. Upon reaching his home, the truck blocked Rosales’ driveway, and the driver started yelling and cursing at him.
Rosales, who was lawfully carrying a handgun, stepped out of his vehicle with the weapon displayed on his waist in a defensive stance. He complied with all commands and tried to de-escalate the situation. However, the officer, who was driving an unmarked vehicle and wearing plain clothes, drew his weapon and pointed it at Rosales. The officer identified himself as a law enforcement officer, although he lacked any visible law enforcement insignia.
The officer was subsequently fired for his treatment of Rosales. However, a lawsuit against the officer stalled due to qualified immunity, which states that police officers cannot be held liable for constitutional rights violations unless there is a clear precedent in another identical case. The lack of such a precedent prevents the establishment of a legal basis for holding the officer accountable.
Fortunately, Rosales was able to get the qualified immunity decision reversed. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the case and determined that Rosales had not committed any crime, and the officer was off-duty at the time of the incident. The court also noted that the officer had his child with him in the truck throughout the encounter.