A 68-year-old man shot by Modesto police two weeks ago in his home died Thursday. Authorities described the dramatic events as possibly “suicide by cop.”
Police say David Mendez, a suspect in a felony sex crime, was pronounced dead two weeks after he began stabbing himself in the neck before making a move toward a detective and officer who came to the Muirswood Way residence to arrest him.
In gripping new details about the case released Friday afternoon, police Lt. Rick Armendariz said an officer tried to use a Taser on Mendez as he began stabbing himself. That apparently was ineffective and when Mendez raised the knife over his head toward the two, the detective opened fire.
Mendez went to the ground with the knife still in his hand, but police convinced him to drop it, Armendariz said.
Mendez was taken to a Modesto hospital, where he eventually died from his injuries Thursday.
Friday, the Stanislaus County coroner’s office conducted an autopsy. The cause of death — whether Mendez died from his stab wounds or from being shot — remains under investigation pending review of all medical records, Armendariz said.
“It was a very tramatic incident for everyone involved,” Armendariz said. “Obviously, based on the totality of the circumstances the proximity, the demeanor, his actions, failure to comply the officers tried to use less-than-lethal force.
“Based on all that information, there was no other option than to use deadly force.”
It was about 2:30 p.m. July 12 when Detective Steve Anderson and officer Ron Lemings went to the home to follow up on the case.Anderson is assigned to the Special Victims Unit, which investigates crimes against children and sexually based crimes. Lemings is a uniformed officer.
During a prior interview with Anderson, Mendez had admitted his involvement in the suspected crime and was aware of “his eventual arrest once the investigation was complete,” Armendariz said.
When Anderson and Lemings went to the home to arrest Mendez, he met the officers at the door and told them he had written a confession, Armendariz said.
He was the only one home at the time and was always within sight of the officer and detective, Armendariz said.
He said Mendez walked to a nearby desk in the front living room area, opened a drawer and removed a 12-inch “diver’s knife.”According to Armendariz, he then “immediately stabbed himself with the knife in his throat area and began to repeatedly thrust the knife in and out, holding the knife with both his hands.”
Anderson and Lemings ordered Mendez to drop the knife, and Lemings deployed a Taser to try to get him to stop. It didn’t work and Mendez continued to stab himself, Armendariz said.
Mendez then removed the knife and raised it above his head in a threatening manner, as he faced the officers, Armendariz said. Mendez was within 10 feet of the officers, who were still standing near the front entryway.
Anderson responded by firing his gun at Mendez, striking him.
Mendez fell to the ground with the knife in his hand, initially refusing to let it go.
During the follow-up investigation, crime scene investigators located a handwritten letter in the same desk where Mendez had retrieved the knife.
The letter was a confession and suicide note, detailing his actions in the felony sex crime and his intentions to kill himself rather than be arrested.
As part of standard protocol with officer-involved shootings, three separate investigations have been launched.
The Police Department is conducting a criminal investigation, the Stanislaus County district attorney’s office is conducting a criminal review of the officers’ actions and the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit is conducting an administrative investigation.
Neither of the officers was injured.
Anderson was on paid administrative leave, which also is standard procedure after an officer-involved shooting. He has since returned to full duty.