SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – Jovanny Mercado’s family claimed their son was “assassinated” by Ogden police. An attorney for Ogden City said the 2019 officer-involved shooting that killed Mercado was self-defense.
Now it will be up to a federal judge to decide who is right. Thursday, attorneys for the Mercado family filed a civil rights lawsuit against Ogden City and four officers.
“I want police reform,” said Juan Mercado, Jovanny’s father. “I want to save lives. I want no more Jovanny Mercado’s out there.”
Last August, Ogden police responded to a 911 call in which a man was seen carrying a knife.
“They received a call from a neighbor who was concerned and nervous about a man at a party,” said Heather White who is representing Ogden City. “(The) man was looking into cars and he appeared to be intoxicated.”
The found Mercado at his parent’s home and asked him to come out. They saw that he was carrying a knife and body camera footage showed the officers repeatedly asked him to drop the knife.
“He produced a knife, moved it from his right hand to his left and flipped it open as he approached the officers which is a very threatening gesture,” said White.
She claimed the officers kept retreating as Mercado inched closer to them. They continued ordering him to drop the knife.
“They were all yelling at the same time and it was impossible for anyone to hear what they were saying,” said Mercado’s attorney, Robert Sykes.
Mercado approached the gate and onto the sidewalk with his knife still in his hand.
“They determined that there was no other choice but to shoot in defense of themselves and the people in the neighborhood,” said White.
Sykes disagreed with White’s assessment of the situation. He said officers had alternatives other than shooting.
“These officers, if they were worried about their lives, they had plenty of time to use non-lethal methods,” Sykes said.
Mercado was shot twenty times according to the lawsuit. Yet he was still alive when officers approached him lying on the ground.
“They showed no human resemblance of how you treat a fellow human being, turning him around, flipping him over, cuffing him,” said Mario Arras, co-counsel for the Mercado family. “They treated him like a sack of potatoes.”
An officer did attempt to do CPR but Mercado died. The family’s attorneys claimed Mercado’s life could have been saved if they had taken proper steps instead of treating him like a prisoner.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. federal court and the family is determined to find justice.
“I’m looking for justice and I’m not going to stop until I get my justice,” said Juan Mercado. “I want jail. I want to see (officers) prosecuted legally.”
Following the shooting, Ogden’s police chief threw support for his officers. An independent review by the Weber County attorney cleared the officers of any wrongdoing. White said they could file a motion to dismiss in the near future. She said qualified immunity which protects officers from such lawsuits could play a role in the lawsuit’s outcome.
“There is maybe a place for qualified immunity,” Sykes said. “There should be for a police offer but not in every case. It’s dangerous and it kills people.”
Meanwhile the Mercado family will continue their quest to right what they perceive is a wrong.
“I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to you (or) me again,” Mercado said. “No parent should be going through what I’m going through, nobody.”