A Colorado family has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the police tale that their handcuffed father killed himself in the back of a patrol vehicle is not true.
According to the lawsuit, officers with the El Paso County sheriff’s office responded to an anonymous request for a welfare check at the home of 36-year-old Carlos Mendoza on July 28, 2015.
The family says the cops confused their father with a different Carlos Mendoza who had an active warrant in another county and arrested him erroneously despite him being 10 years younger than the other man with the same name.
Filed on April 6, the lawsuit asserts that the officers searched Mendoza twice, who was wearing only swimming trunks and a T-shirt and that “there is no possibility of him having a gun hidden somewhere on his person that any competent law enforcement officer would not find.”
Mendoza was then handcuffed behind his back and placed in a police car where he latter died after being shot in the chest while the vehicle was stopped at a red light in Colorado Springs.
Police claimed at the time that Mendoza was able to get his handcuffed hands from behind his back to the front of him where he pulled out a firearm and held it to his head.
One of the cops said he was able to see what was occurring in the rearview mirror and pulled over, fleeing the vehicle before a crisis team arrived on the scene and negotiated with the man during an hours long stand off.
Officers said the incident ended with Mendoza shooting himself but family say that is not what happened and maintain that their loved one, who had two children and a third on the way, would have never taken his own life.
The officers claimed that somehow Mr. Mendoza got possession of one of their guns, while handcuffed in the backseat of their vehicle, and managed to shoot himself. That would have been physically impossible. It would also have been impossible for Mr. Mendoza to have been armed with a gun or other weapon (he did not even own or possess a firearm) at the time of his arrest, and threatened the officers with a gun leading to them shooting him.
The only way Mr. Mendoza to have been shot dead by the firearm of one of the arresting officers is if one of the arresting officers shot him. There was no justification for shooting Mr. Mendoza. He was not resisting arrest, he was not trying to escape, he was not trying to commit suicide, and he was not threatening the officers in any way.
The family described a clam scene at the beginning of the interaction and said after Mendoza was detained, an officer even rolled down the back seat window so he could kiss one of his children goodbye. They say the police story just doesn’t make sense.
The lawsuit is seeking punitive damages and alleges officers “used excessive force by pulling out their gun and shooting [Mendoza] in the chest, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.” The El Paso County sheriff’s office has offered no comment about the pending litigation.