Ogden family remembers son killed by police in 2019

(Nate Carlisle | Tribune file photo) Rosa, left, and Juan Mercado sit beside Bob Sykes, one of their attorneys, during a news conference Sept. 16, 2019, at Sykes’s offices in Salt Lake City. The family is asking the city of Ogden to agree to a settlement over the Aug. 16, 2019, shooting death of their son Jovany Mercado.

Ogden • A year following the death of Jovany Mercado in a confrontation with police, the pain hasn’t eased or gone away.

“He was an awesome kid. He was my friend. He was my first born,” said his dad, Juan Mercado. “I don’t have him anymore. It’s sad.”

Jovany Mercado was shot and killed on Aug. 16, 2019, outside his parents’ home by four Ogden officers after disregarding their commands to drop a knife in his hand as he walked toward them. Police had been called to the area in response to reports of a suspicious man with a knife walking in the neighborhood.

His family has decried the level of force police used — Jovany sustained 16 gunshot wounds — and on Aug. 16, the one-year anniversary of the confrontation, they held a vigil at the site of the incident to remember him. Around 60 people took part, holding candles, watching a video montage of photos from Mercado’s life and listening to a Catholic rosary service for him.

Ruby Mercado, Jovany’s younger sister, said it’s been a whirlwind since her brother’s death. Family and friends have organized several demonstrations against police since the incident and filed suit last month in U.S. District Court against the city of Ogden and the four officers involved, saying they used an inordinate amount of force.

It’s been so busy “that we haven’t taken a moment to take it all in and remember him,” said Ruby Mercado.

Likewise, Juan Mercado said the Aug. 16 event was organized in part to rebuff the “slamming” he says his son’s reputation has received from authorities and to remember him “for who he really was.” The confrontation that killed Jovany, the father of two and stepfather to another, came a day after his 26th birthday.

Jovany suffered from schizophrenia, which could alter his mood, family members say. He also had misdemeanor convictions on his record from three prior incidents. The video montage, meantime, showed what family say was his truer side — photos of him as a smiling child and pictures of him getting married, with his parents and family and with his kids. Family say Jovany had a creative side, enjoyed music and writing, and that he was working at a nutritional supplement company at the time of his death.

Heather White, the lawyer representing the city of Ogden in the lawsuit filed by Jovany’s family, deferred comment. She has said previously that the use of deadly force was unavoidable given the proximity of Jovany to the officers and his failure to respond to their commands. Likewise, the Weber County Attorney’s Office determined that the officers were justified in their actions.

“The city respects the family’s desire to memorialize Jovany and does not want to intrude on that,” White said in an email.

The lawsuit filed by Jovany’s parents, Juan and Rosa Mercado, charges that the officers’ actions on Aug. 16, 2019, amounted to unconstitutional use of deadly force. The city has yet to file a formal response.

Though authorities say the officers involved in the incident perceived Jovany’s actions and demeanor that night to be aggressive and challenging, the lawsuit offers another view, saying he was disoriented and never threatened anyone. The suit also notes that Jovany had a right to carry the knife since Utah is an open-carry state.

After the report of the suspicious man from last year, the responding police encountered Jovany alone in the carport of his parents’ home in the 800 block of 32nd Street, where he had been living. The gunfire occurred as the man walked toward them, right as he left the fenced-in carport and entered the short driveway leading to Gramercy Avenue.

“This is the one that unfortunately spurred the movement here in Ogden, even before George Floyd,” said Malik Dayo, referencing nationwide protesting against police brutality that came in the wake of Floyd’s death on May 25 at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Dayo, on hand at the Aug. 16 vigil, has been active with the Mercado family in protests against police over Jovany’s death.