The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has cleared two Santa Ana police officers who shot and killed a Fountain Valley man accused of pointing a handgun at another officer during a struggle with police.
DA investigators concluded that officers Gavin Roelofs and Josh Espadas are not criminally culpable for the Jan. 20, 2020 killing of Miguel Segura Mercado, who they were trying to take into custody as a suspect in an investigation into lewd and lascivious act’s with a minor.
According to a letter released Thursday outlining the results of the DA investigation, the struggle and shooting occurred after Mercado tried to flee from police at an apartment on La Hacienda Avenue. Mercado, 31, initially agreed to talk to the officers when they entered the apartment,according to the letter, then tried escape over a fence on a back patio.
Both Espadas and Roelofs grabbed hold of Mercado, according to the letter, along with a third officer, Sgt. Dave Lima. In the midst of the struggle, Lima saw a semi-automatic pistol in Mercado’s right hand that was pointed at the sergeants mid-section, below his ballistic vest.
Lima told DA investigators that he couldn’t fire his own weapon at Merrcado without risking hitting one of the other officers. The sergeant told the investigators “I thought I’m dead… this guy is gonna shoot me right where I don’t have any protection,” according to the DA letter.
Lima said he yelled “gun, gun!” and the other officers fired seven gunshots in quick succession, according to the letter. The officers retreated into the apartment to take cover, while Mercado’s mother ran past them onto the patio and took hold of her son’s gun, the letter said.
The mother didn’t respond to the officers yelling at her to drop the gun, according to the letter. Roelofs fired a Taser at the woman, hitting her in the upper torso and leg and leading her to drop the gun over the patio fence, according to the letter.
Mercado was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Officers Roelofs and Espadas declined to give voluntary statements to DA investigators, according to the letter.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Lexie Elliott wrote that “Mercado’s decision to point the gun at Sergeant Lima’s mid-section gave the officers a legally justified belief that Mercado not only posed a significant threat to Sergeant Lima, but also to their own lives and potentially that of the public.”
Source: Orange County Register