Richland police justified in deadly confrontation with Texas man, prosecutor rules

Jose Mercado of Fort Worth, Texas, died in police custody early Monday.
Jose Mercado of Fort Worth, Texas, died in police custody early Monday.

An investigation has cleared five Richland police officers in a confrontation in which a Texas man died in late January.

Jose “Joey” Mercado, 48, died after being shocked twice by a Taser during the incident on Wilson Street.

The officers returned to work about a week after the confrontation, but it took longer for the Tri-City Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to wrap up their investigation of Mercado’s death.

The officers involved ranged from 20-year veteran Sgt. Allen Jenkins to relative newcomer Officer Todd Gilbert, who joined the department two years ago. The others are officers Brandon Koe, Ron Schneider and Jason Lawrence.

“Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller has reviewed the report from SIU pertaining to the death of Jose Mercado Sr. and has concluded the actions of the officers in this incident were appropriate and justified,” Richland police posted on Facebook Friday.

Police were called to Wilson Street on Jan. 20 after a report that Mercado attacked a family member and was throwing beer bottles and had a knife, according to Richland police reports.

A witness said she saw Mercado arguing with a relative in the street when an officer arrived, and when Mercado approached aggressively, the officer tried to shock him with a Taser.

Police and witnesses have said Mercado removed the probes and continued to be uncooperative. A witness said he was shocked again and collapsed.

After the initial contact, other officers arrived, and sometime during the confrontation Mercado became unresponsive. He was taken to Kadlec Regional Medical Center, where he died.

Benton County Coroner Bill Leach said Mercado died from a combination of methamphetamine and an existing heart condition.

Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.