News

Menlo Park police release names of officers involved in fatal shooting

 

The three Menlo Park police officers involved in the fatal shooting of a burglary suspect on Nov. 11 are veterans with more than a decade of experience, according to the police department.

Sgt. Jaime Romero and officers Scott Mackdanz and Nicholas Douglas are on paid leave, as is standard protocol following a shooting, Police Chief Bob Jonsen said. Sgt. Romero has been an officer for 18 years, Officer Mackdanz for 16, and Officer Douglas for 11.

The officers had responded to a report of a burglary in progress at a Willow Road-area business. An employee had spotted a man who resembled a suspect on a flier sent out to commercial tenants warning about a series of thefts at Peninsula businesses.

The man, 52-year-old Jerry Lee Matheny of Riverside County, fled when police arrived. During the ensuing chase, officers first fired a Taser, and the suspect then allegedly pulled a gun, according to the police department.

Attorney Alison Berry Wilkinson, who represents Sgt. Romero, said that he had joined the others in the foot pursuit along Willow Road and initially reached for his baton. Sgt. Romero told the attorney that the fleeing suspect reached for his waistband, then pulled a gun and pointed it at him; when Sgt. Romero heard a shot, he pulled his weapon to return fire, according to the attorney.

Menlo Park police reportedly found a gun and a stolen wallet at the scene. The initial press release on Tuesday stated that police officials had not yet determined whether Mr. Matheny had fired his gun.

The District Attorney's Office is reviewing the shooting and has video footage from the cameras worn by the officers. No further information will be released from the police department and further inquiries should go to the district attorney, Chief Jonsen said.

Mr. Matheny was wanted by the state for violating parole, according to law enforcement sources. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation issued a warrant for him on July 22 related to possession of a controlled substance. He remained at large until Nov. 11.

He was also suspected of other burglaries along the Peninsula. District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said that his office on Oct. 21 filed a felony case out of San Mateo for two counts of commercial burglary and one count of identity theft against Mr. Matheny, which had been pending on the issuance of an arrest warrant by a judge.

History

As Mr. Matheny's past is now subject to scrutiny, so is that of the officers. None of the three officers has been involved in other shootings in Menlo Park. Both Officer Mackdanz and Officer Douglas have lost civil trials related to excessive force complaints.

Asked how the officers' histories should be viewed in the context of Tuesday's shooting, Chief Jonsen said that their actions must be viewed as separate and independent of the past.

"Over a career, the probability that law enforcement officers are going to be involved in incidents leading to lawsuits is high," the chief said. "Each incident must be viewed in its own context, and the reasonableness of the force used must be determined based on the circumstances confronting the officers during this incident and not prior incidents."

The city paid for two claims against Officer Mackdanz in 2005. A jury ordered Menlo Park to pay $27,000 to a man who sued after being injured during an encounter with the police officer, and the city settled another claim for $13,250 in a separate case. A third claim resulted in a payment of $1,000 to a Menlo Park couple in 2004.

City Attorney Bill McClure said at the time that the officer had been cleared of wrongdoing.

The city won another lawsuit, filed in 2011 against five officers, including Officer Mackdanz. A jury found that the plaintiffs had not proven the allegations of excessive force.

As for Officer Douglas, a jury found that he used excessive force while breaking up a party in 2007. He and four other officers had responded to the scene. According to court documents, he had choked a woman with his baton, using her as a "shield or "buffer" against possible assaults. The jury awarded the woman $10,000; another plaintiff settled out of court for $1,500.

The jury found in favor of the city in the 22 other claims made in the lawsuit. Five of the party-goers had faced criminal charges for resisting or obstructing police officers; four were acquitted and one accepted a lesser charge of disturbing the peace.

See related story here.

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Comments

1 person likes this
Posted by CarMen
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 14, 2014 at 1:10 pm

MP police: dangerous thugs. Why do we have such volatile men "protecting" our town? Compare to Los Altos --- they don't seem to have regular jury payouts for excessive force. Or Redwood City, San Carlos, Mt. View, Belmont, Atherton, San Mateo, Cupertino, Half Moon Bay, Foster City, etc.

I spoke to an elected (federal) official who has represented our area for decades, and was surprised at the strength of response, [portion removed; don't make such inflammatory statements without evidence].

Why? WHY?

We don't deserve the abuse they dish out. Yes, it's a problem that blue-collar workers can't live in the town they serve, so there may be some us/them perspective. [Portion removed; stick to the facts].

From picking a kid up for walking home from school, to imposing a death sentence on a burglar: who feels proud to pay for this? Such a disconnect between what MP seems to be, and what our cops seem to think it is. Ick.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Nov 14, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Robert is a registered user.

@ CarMen - it would be great to know the name of the elected official. When a person of authority makes a statement of that nature, it is something that in part they must deal with. Similar (although not the same) as being made aware of certain crimes against persons - certain people are required to report this. To that end I have not seen the report.
BTW, Thugs in most people books has certain association with it - and widely is considered racial - which I hope was not your intent.


2 people like this
Posted by Alarmed
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Nov 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Policing is a tough and dangerous job and those who choose to do it know going in that they will be in harm's way. How they respond to a criminal situation is going to depend on the culture and training of the officers. They should know that there's a chance in any encounter, including a routine traffic stop, that someone could be armed. The onus is on the officers to quickly diffuse the situation or apprehend with the LEAST amount of violence possible. Firing a taser at a fleeing suspect in a residential, high traffic area is an overreaction and escalated a robbery into a shootout. It was clear that Matheny was breaking a number of laws but none of them was a shooting offense. Either these guys were unprepared or frightened or out of shape -- or all three. Or there is a culture of overreaction in the department.


11 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 14, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Police were justified in firing on Matheny, absolutely no doubt about it. A fleeing felon with outstanding warrants, history of violence and he pulls a gun on Law Enforcement Officers, in a location potentially frequented by innocent bystanders, then absolutely, deadly force upon that felon should be used immediately...eliminate the threat! Good work Menlo Park Police!!!


11 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 14, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Alarmed:

you make no sense. The officers first tried to use less than lethal force (the tazer). It was the suspect that escalated the encounter to one necessitating deadly force. When he pulled a gun all bets were off. Had he stopped and complied, he'd still be alive.

Your blaming the officers for this [Portion removed; Menlo Voter, please, you know our terms of use] death is disgusting. It's obvious you've never spent any time in law enforcement. The onus isn't on the officer to defuse a situation in which a gun is present. It is their obligation to protect us and themselves. That means meeting deadly force with the same level of force.

From what I've read the Menlo Park Police in this situation should be commended. They handled the situation appropriately, with an appropriate escalation of force.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 14, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Menlo Voter = the voice of experience and reason.

Thank you.


5 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 14, 2014 at 3:54 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Alarmed: It would be nice if you knew what you were talking about. A tazer being used is less than than deadly force. The suspect escalated the incident into deadly force. Pull a gun on a police office, expect to be shot. Police officers have families and they fully intend to go home to them at the end of the shift. The use of deadly force in this situation was appropriate.


1 person likes this
Posted by Dan Mathews
a resident of another community
on Nov 14, 2014 at 5:37 pm

[Post removed; the investigation is ongoing; please don't speculate on what happened or on what people involved were thinking during the incident.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Nov 14, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Given that the officers had body cameras and the suspect shot first, why are commenters responding as if they hadn't read the details of the story? Romero fired back and hasn't been involved in any excessive force complaints in Menlo, has he?

While I personally think it's stupid for cops to chase someone committing a property crime, my personal opinion isn't the guideline for standard LE regs and SOP, and neither are the other commenters. Monday morning quarterbacking isn't useful here. If some feel it's necessary, there are avenues in which you can make your views known.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 14, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"why are commenters responding as if they hadn't read the details of the story?"

Because the standard of postings on this Forum is that fantasies are welcomed as long as they increase readership. And for anonymous posters there is no accountability and no price for either ignorance or deceit.


1 person likes this
Posted by Pull gun - get shot
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 14, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Of course, anyone (other than an internal affairs officer of FBI agent) who pulls out a gun while fleeing from the police can expect to be shot. Once a suspect pulls a gun, there are no currently available alternatives to deadly force. Are there? Of course, video cameras on officers would be nice so that we can make sure police only shoot when apparently necessary.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 14, 2014 at 8:53 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

excuse me editor, but alarmed's comment is disgusting. I don't think that violates your terms of use.


1 person likes this
Posted by Doug Dietz
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 17, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Thank you to Sgt. Jaime Romero and officers Scott Mackdanz and Nicholas Douglas. You're going to take a lot of heat, but there are a lot of less vocal people out there who, like myself, appreciate the work you do to keep our neighborhoods safe while putting your lives on the line every day.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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