Ogden parents want settlement with city whose officers shot and killed their son

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

An Ogden family whose son died in a police shooting last month wants the city to pay a settlement and for officers to stop parking outside their home.

The parents of Jovany Mercado, 26, contend four officers should not have shot and killed him at the family’s home near 32nd Street and Gramercy Avenue.

“They were maniacs the way they were shooting,” Juan Mercado, the man’s father, said Monday. “They could have easily killed somebody else.”

At their lawyer’s office in Salt Lake City, Juan and Rosa Mercado, the man’s mother, also provided new video of the Aug. 16 shooting. It was taken by a camera mounted on their carport. Like body camera footage released earlier this month by Ogden, it shows Mercado holding a knife as he walks out of the family’s carport toward officers and is shot as he reaches the sidewalk.

In the new footage, all four officers can be seen backing up as Jovany Mercado begins approaching. They have stopped by the time he reaches the sidewalk, where he was then shot.

An Ogden police spokesman on Monday referred to statements that Police Chief Randy Watt gave at a Sept. 10 City Council meeting. Watt said the officers felt their lives and others were in danger when they shot Jovany Mercado and have been approved to return to duty. He accused critics, without identifying those critics, of supporting an “extreme counter-policing” agenda.

“Three of the four officers had backed up as far as they could go,” Watt said in a video of his remarks posted on Facebook, “as they had backed across the street and were up against vehicles parked curbside. Behind the officers were approximately 20 people who were at risk.

“The suspect could have closed the resulting distance to the officers in approximately 1.5 seconds. And, in fact, the suspect was closer than the distance recommended in training. The suspect had the same amount of time the officers had to change his mind and submit. He chose not to do so and chose to continue to aggressively advance.”

Watt also referenced Jovany Mercado’s criminal record. He had a string of misdemeanor convictions for crimes ranging from assault to forgery and drug possession.

Lawyers for the family argued Monday that Jovany Mercado was at his own home, that refusing an officer’s order is not in itself a reason to fire, and they could have tried a less-lethal alternative such as a Taser.

“It’s not illegal to have a gun,” said attorney Mario Arras. “It’s not illegal to carry a knife. It’s not illegal to be in your house.”

(Photo courtesy Ogden Police) Jovany Mercado-Bedolla

Neither the family members nor their attorneys knew why Jovany Mercado had been walking around the neighborhood with a knife that night nor why he didn’t drop it when commanded to do so.

Juan Mercado said police have been in sight of his home every day since the shooting. Sometimes patrol cars slowly drive past, he said, and sometimes they stop. He said he has seen officers doing paperwork in their cars or helping students through a crosswalk near their home. The father said these are not normal police activities in his neighborhood, and he considers it harassment.

Ogden police Lt. Michael Boone, a spokesman for the department, on Monday said officers have been working at school crosswalks to compensate for a statewide shortage in crossing guards. He said he did not know of any officers doing paperwork outside the Mercado home.

Jovany Mercado was married and had two children, his father said. The Mercado family members and their attorneys have not filed a lawsuit. They said they are asking for Ogden to agree to a settlement. They did not say how much money they want but said they want any agreement to include new training for police.

Juan Mercado compared current police education to training a puppy.

“If you train it to be aggressive,” he said, “it’s going to be aggressive.”