Mesa police cleared in shooting death of teen - East Valley Tribune: News

Mesa police cleared in shooting death of teen

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Posted: Wednesday, October 29, 2003 3:04 pm | Updated: 1:47 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Three Mesa police officers who shot and killed a 15-yearold boy will not be criminally charged, Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley said Wednesday.

Evidence gathered in the roughly two-month investigation shows nothing to contradict the three officers’ statements that they shot Mario Madrigal Jr. on Aug. 25 because they believed an officer’s life was in danger, Romley said.

The family, who watched as police fired 10 bullets into their son, dispute the officers’ account. They say the boy, who was armed with a knife, was shot after he was no longer a danger.

"Clearly the scientific evidence discredits the Madrigal family’s account," Romley said. "This shooting was justified under Arizona law."

Mario Madrigal Sr. on Wednesday said he is not satisfied with Romley’s assurances that the shooting reconstruction by Lucien Haag, a wellknown independent forensics investigator, was impartial.

"The federal government in Washington (D.C.) needs to know what is going on here," Madrigal Sr. said. Madrigal Sr. has been discussing his next legal moves with attorney Edward Fitzhugh, who has hired his own reconstructionist.

"No matter what they say, no matter what they hide, someday the truth will haunt them," Madrigal Sr. said about the three police officers involved in the shooting.

Mesa police will review the action taken by the officers and compare them to department procedures and policies, said Police Chief Dennis Donna.

"A young man has lost his life and the Madrigal family has suffered greatly," Donna said in a news release Wednesday. "We hope that they find peace in the months ahead."

The police officers and their families also have suffered, he added.

"They are city employees that serve in a tough job and they deserve our understanding and compassion, too," Donna said.

Romley released the evidence Wednesday, which included autopsy examinations, DNA tests, ballistics analyses, and a 1,200-page investigative report.

According to the report, several police calls to the home at 513 S. Johnson before the shooting paint a portrait of Madrigal Jr. as combative and suicidal. The boy was aggressive and combative when he drank alcohol, Romley said.

"Mario Madrigal, he was a disturbed young man," Romley said.

During one call in June, Mario Madrigal Jr. grabbed a firearm and swore at police dispatchers over the telephone, who could hear him taunting arriving police officers.

"OK, look, you (expletive) want to go to war with me, OK," Madrigal Jr. was heard saying.

On the night he was shot, Madrigal Jr. went to a neighborhood party, where he drank about 10 beers. While drunk, Madrigal Jr. said he dreamed of dying before his birthday on Sept. 14, and also talked about how he wanted to be buried, another partygoer told investigators.

His mother, Martha Madrigal, called police about 12:30 a.m., asking for officers to put her son back into therapy, but the boy disappeared by the time officers arrived. A second 911 call at 1:13 a.m. brought officers back to the home, who found Mario Madrigal Jr. armed with a knife.

What happened next is the dispute.

Sgt. Orlando Dean and officers Mark Beckett and Richard Henry claim they fired at Mario Madrigal Jr. after two blasts from a stun gun failed. Martha and Mario Madrigal Sr. claim the stun guns worked, and the officers shot Mario Madrigal Jr. as he lay on the ground near the doorway leading to their kitchen.

Martha Madrigal claimed an officer shoved her out of the way, fired the stun gun, and then the shooting started. One officer then leaned into the kitchen and fired additional rounds at close range as the boy lay on the ground, she said.

Haag said this couldn’t have happened because no shell casings were found in the house. All of the ejected shell casings landed on the concrete under the carport.

There were no bullet holes on the floor of the kitchen. And, there was no sign on the body that the stun guns connected, Haag said.

Martha Madrigal was on her cellular telephone the entire time, allowing investigators to determine the length of the shooting. The officers fired 15 shots at Madrigal Jr. — 10 striking him — in 2.2 seconds, Haag said.

With the knife, Madrigal Jr. came within 10 inches of Beckett, Haag said. A mark on Beckett’s cartridge belt could be a scratch from the knife in the struggle, but Haag said investigators could not conclude that’s what happened.

According to the report, Madrigal Jr. moved toward Beckett, slashing and jabbing with the knife.

Dean, who is believed to have fired first, said that he believed Beckett’s life was in danger.

All of the officers had a reasonable fear the life of their fellow officer was in jeopardy, Romley said.

The Madrigal Jr. shooting was followed by three more officer-involved shootings in Mesa in about three weeks. There were shooting protests at Mesa police headquarters and City Hall.

In response, City Council members on Oct. 14 voted to create a 12-member task force to study whether the city should create a citizens review board to oversee its police department.

Manny Cortez, a Mesa activist and former council candidate, said the shooting has caused divisions in the community and that there was likely to be "an uproar" no matter what Romley decided.

Cortez said the city definitely needs a citizens review board to oversee its police department, adding that he has already applied to become a task force member.

"Like I always said, if the citizens review board comes up with the same conclusion that Rick Romley did, then I think a lot more people would feel comfortable with that," Cortez said.

Mayor Keno Hawker expressed sympathy toward the Madrigal family and gratitude for Romley for what he said he believed was a complete and impartial investigation. He said he supports studying the idea of a police oversight panel.

"There’s always room for improvement in how the police department communicates with the citizens," he said.

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