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Grand Junction police shooting of Joseph Mendez justified review finds

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Two Grand Junction police officers who fired shots at an armed man in December will not face criminal charges, according to a review letter by the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office.

Joseph Mendez, 28, was shot on Dec. 6 after pointing a handgun police and then running into a field near a hotel and other businesses, according to the review letter dated Thursday.

Officer Jose “Joey” Gonzalez, who fired two shots at Mendez, and Officer Micah Conrads, who fired one shot striking Mendez, “were acting in self-defense and defense of each other,” police shooting investigators found.

Police were called to the Red Roof Inn in response to a domestic violence incident and they were warned that Mendez was armed with a Glock 9mm handgun and that he had threatened to take his own life.

The officers found Mendez in the hotel lobby, and he pointed a gun at Colorado State Patrol Trooper Jacob Best, according to the review. At that point, Gonzalez fired two shots a Mendez, who then fled into a field east of the hotel.

Multiple officers ran after Mendez, shouting for him to stop and to drop the weapon. Mendez disregarded the orders, the review said.

Conrads fired one shot at Mendez, hitting him in the back, as the suspect was about to run into the cover of tall grass, the review said.

Officers approached Mendez, who remained noncompliant, and Officer Vaughn Soderquist fired four less lethal rounds, subduing Mendez, who was then taken to a hospital. He was released the following day.

“In Colorado, deadly physical force used in defense of yourself or others has two equally important components,” the review letter said. “The first is a subjective component requiring that the actors themselves, here Officer Gonzalez and Officer Conrads, actually believed that themselves or another were in imminent danger of death or great bodily injury, and that deadly force or an attempt at deadly force was required. The second component is an objective component; that the actor’s actual belief was also a reasonable belief.”

Based on the findings of investigators and conclusions of law, charges against the officers are not appropriate, the letter said.

Mendez faces multiple charges including stalking while under a protection order, menacing, possession of a weapon by a previous offender, violation of a protection order, theft and resisting arrest, according to the review. He remains in custody on a $100,000 bond.

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