SALT LAKE CITY — An Ogden family is hoping to settle with Ogden City after their son was shot and killed by police in August. They would also like police officers to stop parking outside their home and “harassing” their family.
“No father, no parent should be going what we’re going through,” said Juan Mercado, father of Jovany Mercado, the man killed. “It was an assassination, what they did.”
Police were called to 800 block of 32nd Street on Aug. 16 after a caller reported that a man with a knife approached a group having a party in their yard. Less than a minute after seeing 26-year-old Jovany Mercado and repeatedly telling him to drop a knife in his hand, four officers fired.
The footage was played several times in the Salt Lake City offices for Robert Sykes, one of two attorneys representing the Mercado family. Sykes said the family would like to resolve the matter out of court, but they would be willing to file a complaint against the police department if needed.
“The reason we’re here publicly today is because Ogden has made it a matter of publicity when they had a press conference and addressed the matter publicly, so my clients felt the need to give their side of the story,” Sykes said.
Sykes told reporters Monday that the shooting happened at the Mercado’s home, where Jovany was living with his family. The attorney said that police gave no warning that they were going to shoot, and were all likely armed with Tasers but chose to use lethal force instead. Sykes said he believes this is a clear case of excessive force.
“No warning, no resort to lesser force,” Sykes said. “I’m sure they all have Tasers. I haven’t had a case in 25 years were an officer hasn’t had a Taser. (There was) No attempt to deescalate.”
Sykes said that Mercado may have been non-compliant with police for several seconds, but that should not give officers the ability to shoot somebody.
“Non-compliance with an officer’s demand does not warrant a death sentence,” Sykes said.
Juan Mercado said that since the shooting, police have been harassing his family. He said officers have regularly been parked outside of his home, and others have slowed to a crawl as they pass by, something that has never happened in his quiet neighborhood.
“It’s non-stop,” Juan Mercado said. “Before, I would hardly ever see a peace officer.”
Mercado also said that days after the shooting, police served a warrant at their house to retrieve all the bullets fired during the shooting. Sykes went on to say that officers tried to pull a hard drive from the home that had security camera footage of the shooting. However, they were unable to remove the hard drive.
In that footage, Juan Mercado said it shows that several minutes passed before anyone tried to conduct life-saving measures on his son, who was lying bleeding and handcuffed on the ground in the meantime.
The Monday press conference comes days after Ogden Police Chief Randy Watt addressed Ogden’s City Council and defended his officer’s actions.
“No officer of mine need wait to be bashed with a rock, cut or stabbed with a knife, shot at or shot, in order to determine whether they should take action,” Watt said. “And I will support them to my grave.”
When read what Watt said to city council, Sykes called Watt’s claims that officers had no other choice in that situation as “pure, unadulterated baloney.”
“What about a Taser? What about a command, ‘stop or I’ll shoot,’” Sykes said. “We disagree with (what Watt said). That’s baloney, and you can quote me on that.”
Mercado said that one of the main issues with the department is a lack of training in these types of situations, and that the problem comes from leadership at the top.
Sykes and Juan Mercado said that they have not named a specified dollar amount in any proposed settlement, but they hope to have the matter resolved without going to court.
But more importantly, Juan Mercado doesn’t want any other family to experience the pain that his family has been through.
“I fear for the safety of my family and my safety,” Juan Mercado said.