The police officer and sheriff’s deputies involved in a fatal shooting during a hostage situation on Jan. 3 have been cleared of any wrongdoing, with Malheur County District Attorney David Goldthorpe on Jan. 19 ruling the shooting of the man holding a woman hostage as justified.
The victim’s family had called police to say that she was being held against her will by a man with a knife who was threatening to kill her. When police responded a hostage situation developed.
An investigation revealed that hours later when police shot him, the man had already fatally stabbed Carlen Mercado, the woman he was holding hostage and with whom he was in a relationship.
The police shooting took place after hours of failed negotiations and with no contact with Mercado after repeated tries. After attempting entry into the house with the purpose of protecting and removing the victim, her assailant Henry Martinez Jr., 49, of Nyssa, who ignored all commands and threatened physical violence to officers, was fatally shot by officers.
Information follows about the district attorney’s findings as well as information received from Mercado’s family.
Following the conclusion of the investigation into the officer-involved shooting death of Martinez Jr. by Oregon State Police, Goldthorpe concluded it was justified.
As well as doing an on-scene assessment immediately after the crime and having numerous conversations with the lead detective from OSP, Goldthorpe reviewed all related evidence, including body cam videos from an Ontario Police officer and Malheur County Sheriff’s deputies, findings from the autopsy, a search warrant affidavit and interviews with the involved officer and deputies.
“After consideration and examination of all of the above-mentioned materials and evidence, my decision is that the officer involved shooting of Henry Martinez Jr was a justified use of deadly force,” reads a news release from Goldthorpe.
The district attorney’s list of factors considering in that decision follow:
• Law enforcement attempted non-violent efforts to remove Mr. Martinez Jr from the situation.
• [Martinez Jr.] ignored officer’s repeated orders to drop the knife.
• [Martinez Jr.] continued to walk towards deputies with the knife pointed forward.
• [Martinez Jr.] began to turn towards deputies and was immediately fired upon.
• The deputies fired six shots, fired nearly simultaneously.
• Mr. Martinez Jr was struck two times with .45 caliber rounds.
• Deputies immediately began life-saving attempts, including chest compressions. EMT personnel were on seen within mere minutes.
• Ms Carlen Mercado had stab wounds to her neck and hands.
Mercado described as ‘a ray of sunlight’
The stabbing victim’s friend, Judene McCrory, reached out to the newspaper on behalf Mercado’s family and wanted the public to know more about the woman whose life was taken abruptly by her assailant.
“Today, and for always, in Southern California, we are missing our dear family member and friend,” reads a statement from family and friends received in early January. “By writing this, we wish for you to know something of Carlen and the enormity of our loss.”
Mercado, 51, was from California, having recently arrived in Ontario “to try and help someone else,” which was true to her nature, reads a statement from family and friends received in early January.
She was described as an “amazing person, a ray of sunlight even on the darkest day,” and a much-loved family memeber and friend, who was also a school bus driver for the Rialto Unified School District in California.
According to the statement, Mercado described herself as “not perfect, but I love my family,” and a “loving, caring person.”
Those grieving for her include two sisters, four children, seven grandchildren and many other family members and friends.
As a bus driver, she was described as “a bright spot in the children’s lives,” who often drove special needs children, ensuring they were safe and secure on the ride to and from school.
“During the pandemic, Carlen and her fellow drivers, have been delivering food to many families in need,” reads the statement.
“Our hearts are broken, and we are drowning in sorrow. We are thankful for the time we had with Carlen, although [it] was not long enough” the statement concludes. “We hold her dearly in our hearts. May our memories of her carry us through this sad time.”