Santa Ana officers who fatally shot armed Fountain Valley man cleared by Orange County district attorney

A man alleged to be carrying a gun was fatally shot by Santa Ana police in Fountain Valley on Jan. 20.
A man alleged to be carrying a gun was fatally shot by Santa Ana police at an apartment complex in the 10300 block of La Hacienda Avenue in Fountain Valley on Jan. 20.

Two Santa Ana police officers have been cleared by the Orange County district attorney’s office after an investigation into an officer-involved shooting that killed an armed Fountain Valley man in January.

Investigators found that Officers Gavin Roelofs and Josh Espadas are not criminally culpable after reviewing the Jan. 20 incident, which resulted in the death of Miguel Segura Mercado, 31, during a struggle with police.

Police had arrived at an apartment on La Hacienda Avenue to apprehend Mercado as a suspect in an investigation into lewd and lascivious acts with a minor.

The district attorney’s office released a letter detailing the findings of the investigation into the officer-involved shooting. The report said that Roelofs and Espadas did not give voluntary statements concerning the incident.

The letter states that a struggle occurred after Mercado attempted to flee.

Roelofs and Espadas arrived at the apartment and spoke with Mercado’s parents, who according to the report said that both themselves and Mercado were aware of an accusation of inappropriate acts toward children by other family members.

The officers asked Mercado to come outside and talk with them, who per the letter, initially agreed to do so before heading into a backyard patio and attempting to scale the fence.

Roelofs and Espadas then grabbed hold of Mercado, and a third officer, Sgt. Dave Lima, joined in attempting to prevent Mercado from escaping. The letter adds that Lima saw a semi-automatic pistol in Mercado’s right hand that was pointed at his midsection below his ballistic vest.

Lima reportedly told investigators that he could not fire his weapon without risking shooting the other officers. A statement from Lima in the letter said, “I thought I’m dead … this guy is gonna shoot me right where I don’t have any protection.”

Upon seeing the weapon, Lima reportedly said he yelled, “Gun, gun!” and then seven shots were fired in rapid succession.

The letter states that Mercado’s mother ran past Roelofs and Espadas to the side of her son after the incident and took hold of the gun, and she did not follow orders to drop the weapon and come back into the apartment.

Subsequently, the letter said that Roelofs fired his Taser at Mercado’s mother, hitting her in the upper torso and leg after she continually failed to comply with orders to drop the gun.

Mercado was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The letter said that the autopsy identified the cause of death as “multiple gunshot wounds to the upper torso.”

According to the letter, the district attorney’s office concluded that Roelofs and Espadas were legally justified to believe that Mercado posed a threat to Lima, to themselves and to the public.

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