LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Acting Los Angeles County Sheriff John Scott on Thursday confirmed that a deputy shot and killed an innocent Pico Rivera grandfather during a gunbattle with a suspect.
KCAL9’s Dave Lopez asked Scott how the deputies could have made such a mistake between the suspect and victim at the time of the shooting.
Frank Mendoza, Sr., 54, was shot Friday night by a deputy after 27-year-old wanted parolee Cedric Ramirez broke into their home in the 9000 block of Rosehedge Drive.
The incident began when deputies spotted Ramirez, who was wanted for stealing a car. He fled from authorities and shot at deputies before he ended up at the home.
According to Scott, three family members escaped from the home and were escorted by deputies to a squad car.
A deputy who arrived on scene encountered gunfire from Ramirez and then saw Frank Mendoza inside and fired his weapon.
“A deputy positioned in the front yard thought he was a suspect, trying to seek position inside the front of the home to assault other deputies located outside the front window,” Scott said in a news conference.
“Believing he was an immediate threat to his partners, the deputy fired twice, striking the man and falling to the floor just inside the front door. Tragically, it was Mr. Mendoza.”
The 54-year-old father of eight and grandfather of 10 was fatally wounded in the forehead and also suffered a gunshot wound to the leg.
“When it became apparent that Mr. Mendoza was not the suspect, deputies implemented a plan within minutes in an effort to get him medical attention,” Scott said.
Mendoza died at the scene.
“This was a highly dynamic event in which deputies were forced to make split-second decisions in an effort to rescue family members from the home. The outcome was the heartbreaking death of an innocent man,” Scott added. “As you can all imagine, the deputies involved in this incident are devastated.”
Ramirez, who lived down the street from the victim, then held Lorraine Mendoza hostage for eight hours before deputies stormed the residence and fatally shot him.
Lorraine Mendoza was not harmed in the incident.
During the investigation, which is continuing, deputies said Mendoza did not make any identifying statements about him being a resident.
“We have remained in contact with the Mendoza family, providing support and any resources necessary. We will continue to stand by their side for whatever period is necessary. We grieve with them for their loss and sincerely regret this tragedy ever occurred,” Scott concluded.
Family members posted a notice outside of their home stating that Mendoza will be buried at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.