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Lucky to Be Alive 

A couple's devastating encounter with Lee Baca's COPS HIT deputies

Thursday, Apr 11 2013
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Page 6 of 6

Professor O'Donnell agrees that if there's not an emergency, "You need to have a warrant to go into someone's house." But he notes that due to institutional pressures, officers and their commanders often feel they can't admit they were wrong.

O'Donnell adds, "If you can't be truthful, then what are your reports going to say?"

Parker explains, "If you operate from the premise that [police] had no right to be there, that damages the self-protection aspect of the shooting. ... Angel and Jennifer are innocent victims in this situation."

click to flip through (4) PHOTO COURTESY OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT - Angel Mendez's plywood shack, tucked behind a forlorn tree and piles of debris
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT
  • Angel Mendez's plywood shack, tucked behind a forlorn tree and piles of debris
     
 

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O'Donnell says it's also "interesting" that Mendez was not prosecuted for pointing an imitation gun. "He basically didn't do a crime," the professor says. "He was sitting in his home."

O'Donnell says the deputies had a hard-to-beat explanation for firing 15 bullets into a 7-by-7-foot shack. "Cops are almost always going to win the main issue, which is the guy had a gun."

Parker says he believes it's possible that some deputies were interested in looking for illegal drug activity at the homes of Larsen and Hughes and weren't out to find Ronnie O'Dell at all. He says the Sheriff's version of events simply doesn't pass his smell test.

Baca spokesman Whitmore says, "You can paint the picture that everyone's in cahoots, which is fine. ... But when everything is said and done, [Mendez] caused the shooting."

The men representing Angel Mendez before Judge Fitzgerald have been working on the case for two years, but they still get outraged over the Sheriff's and district attorney's investigations. Drexler says of the DA's office, "They don't do any independent investigation" and he criticizes the Justice System Integrity Division's weighty name as "a misnomer."

For Ryckman, the halfhearted effort he saw made by police oversight authorities to determine what really happened that day haunts him the most. "As it goes up this chain of command," he says, "it's constantly rubber-stamped."

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

Reach the writer at pmcdonald@laweekly.com

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