News

Menlo Park police chief: Pursuit, fatal shooting 'happened in seconds'

Department has now ordered extra body cameras

"Seconds is how quickly everything went down. Literally seconds," said Menlo Park Police Chief Bob Jonsen in describing the foot pursuit and fatal shooting of a burglary suspect by three police officers on Nov. 11.

Only two of the three officers were wearing body cameras. One camera may have been turned on after the shooting, and one may have been left off, according to District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. Two cameras were submitted to his office, which is conducting a standard review of the shooting.

Sgt. Jaime Romero did activate his camera immediately after the shooting, the police chief said, "probably as quickly as he physically could."

The third officer's camera had been turned in for repairs, so he was not wearing one. The cameras are mailed back to the manufacturer in Seattle for repairs, Chief Jonsen said. Late last year the department bought 40 VIEVU cameras, which cost more than $1,000 each, but did not order extras.

That has now changed. "This incident proved we should just go purchase more," Chief Jonsen said. The department has ordered 10 additional cameras as back-ups.

According to the policy posted on the police department's website on Nov. 21, all on-duty contact with citizens shall be recorded, with an exemption for urgent, dangerous situations: "At no time is a member expected to jeopardize his/her safety in order to activate a recorder or change the recording media. However, the recorder should be activated in all situations as soon as practical."

The Nov. 11 incident went out as a "suspicious person" call, which Chief Jonsen said normally turns into a case where the person is in fact somewhere they have a right to be. This can make it a challenge to know when to activate a camera, given that the battery carries only about a 3-hour charge, and the officer works a 12-hour shift.

The chief said that buying batteries with a longer lifespan is one option under consideration.

"We've been talking a lot about this internally," he said, adding that the camera, Taser and foot-pursuit policies will all be part of the discussion.

Chief Jonsen praised the department's officers for willingly adopting the body cameras while other jurisdictions have faced an uphill battle. And his staff "has been exceptional about activating them."

That said, it takes time for something to become second nature, as well as to make a habit of reaching for the camera when an officer's dominant hand may be moving to a weapon, he noted.

"We would love for the community to accept that we're trying our best to be transparent," the chief said.

Investigation

Chief Jonsen said he talked to the DA on Nov. 19 for an update. Evidence analysis of fingerprints, DNA and guns is not finished. The investigation will not be complete for an estimated four to six weeks.

The shooting occurred on Willow Road in Menlo Park around 12:50 p.m.

In addition to Sgt. Romero, the police department identified the other officers involved as Scott Mackdanz and Nicholas Douglas. All three are on paid leave, as is department policy, the chief said. Sgt. Romero has been an officer for 18 years, Officer Mackdanz for 16, and Officer Douglas for 11.

The attorney representing Sgt. Romero said his camera was turned on at some point, but that she didn't know what was on it. "I haven't had the chance to review the footage," Alison Berry Wilkinson said.

An employee reported spotting a suspected burglar near 64 Willow Place. The police officers did not initially see the suspect, Jerry Lee Matheny, 52, of Riverside County, who fled as they arrived, the police chief said.

A foot chase ensued. According to the report, Mr. Matheny pulled a handgun and pointed it at the officers after they attempted to stop the pursuit with a Taser. Sgt. Romero told his attorney that he heard a shot and then returned fire.

All three officers fired their guns, Mr. Wagstaffe said. The crime lab has not yet determined whether Mr. Matheny had shot at them.

At the time of the shooting, Mr. Matheny was wanted by the state for parole violation related to drug charges, and also had two counts of felony commercial burglary and one count of identity theft pending in San Mateo County.

Although there may not be video footage of the shooting, Chief Jonsen said relatively consistent accounts from numerous other witnesses are available, given that it occurred in the middle of the day, in addition to the forensics.

"It's not just three officers in an alley with nobody around," he said.

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Comments

Like this comment
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 26, 2014 at 8:59 am

3 hour battery and 12 hour shifts.
Carry extra batteries.
Or purchase available equipment which lasts 12 hours, of which several are well below $1000.


3 people like this
Posted by turn on
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 26, 2014 at 9:14 am

Or just TURN THEM ON.

heres the deal: we give you a gun and power. We give you a lifetime of fantastic money and union protection.

You turn on the g@d@## camera before you exit your car.

Or are fired immediately with no pension.


7 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 26, 2014 at 9:51 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

turn on:

clearly you haven't spent any time as a police officer. There are several things you have to do when bailing out of a police car. They involve both hands. Then in this case they were immediately in foot pursuit. Sgt. Romero has said he started reaching for his baton, but switched when he saw the gun to reaching for his own gun. Would you have him stop reaching for his gun? Stop defending his life? Yes, you probably would, but no reasonable person would.

I suggest you go on a ride along and see what it's like before you start making statements like yours.


Like this comment
Posted by Honore
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 26, 2014 at 12:52 pm

I really hate that the topic of intense discussion of this event is batteries and the proper use of cameras.


Like this comment
Posted by straight face fail
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 26, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Hard to seem transparent when the story keeps changing. Voter, you have just underscored the reasons the camera must be turned on! The cops had a minute between the time they got in their cars and their arrival on willow to do so. Earlier, the chief said that the two responding officers first interviewed the employee
The camera should have been on then too!

[part removed]


3 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Nov 26, 2014 at 12:53 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

turn on - you live in ATHERTON and you describe a cop's salary as "fantastic money" that "we give you"? [part removed. comment about topic, not other posters.]

I'm more concerned about times that officers with body cameras don't turn them on when they're dealing with *innocent* citizens. I'm much more concerned with the increasing militarization of cops, how often they kill innocent people and pets. I'm very concerned about our sheriff and DA and their execrable behavior. I'm not overly concerned about this killing.

I'm glad to hear MP PD's chief being open about what they need to review. This incident wasn't typical at all of most of Menlo's calls for service.


Like this comment
Posted by turn on
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm

If a cop called on a possible burglary suspect can't find thr ten seconds needed to turn on a camera from the point of the call, i ha e to wonder what kind of intelligence test did he pass to become part of the union.

One sees cops on cell phones while driving. He can't find a moment to activate the camera while driving?

Puh-leeze.


2 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 26, 2014 at 2:39 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

I guess citizens need to be trained so when police yell "time out" all criminal behavior stops immediately so the officer can turn his camera on. Once on, all criminal behavior can resume.

The Atherton cops are paid fantastic salaries. But what do they do to earn that money? Menlo police do earn their money daily.

Menlo Voter to correct. Take a ride along with they police. Menlo Park police department do have them.


6 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 26, 2014 at 3:00 pm

turn on:

given the poor battery life of the cameras MPPD is using I'm not surprised they don't turn them on until they think they'll actually need them. In my opinion that is the problem here. If an officer could run his camera the entire shift we wouldn't be having this conversation.


3 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 26, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Good point SteveC. Ride along with MPPD who actually does some police work.


8 people like this
Posted by Trust
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 26, 2014 at 10:09 pm

APD gets a fantastic salary?? Local CEOs, Lawyers and VC's draw "fantastic" salaries and incomE. By that measure, the officers do not. What do they do to earn it? Check your property values, still climbing? Why? Do you get hone and not feel threatened? Yea, thank a cop. If or when you have a problem, who would you call? Underpaid Sheriff's deputies? Nope. And how long does it take the fantastically paid APD officer to arrive to render aid? Not long. And I suppose the only time their lives are actually on the line is when they are backing up MPPD in East Menlo or EPA with K9 unit or suiting up as part of the Redwood City SWAT team? Yes, they do that, as do those agencies help inn Atherton when need be. Why only then? Because thugs don't use El Camino or Alameda to move north or south. These folks chose to dedicate their lives to protect ours and our property. I am not in law enforcement and never have been but don't need to be to appreciate what they are paid to do amidst the undeniable change in our environment as it become more violent more often.

So from behind your computer you are demanding transparency and policies regarding body cameras. Peter posted a nice piece outlining the true complexities of the issue yet both APD and the much larger MPPD don the cameras willingly. Assuming these tantrums are met and there is video evidence, none of us know, or are trained to know what we would be viewing. Because none of these posts are from anyone who has ever been is a remotely similar policing situation. Never protected his/her community by pursuing a suspect to find a gun pointing back at him/her and was forced to respond by drawing their own weapon to protect their own life.

I'm grateful for the many folks who defend our freedoms at a global, national and local level and do not take that for granted. As such, I don't sit back and second-guess the decisions these trained officers make in the field. Are they perfect 100% of the time? Probably not, Human nature. But we will never achieve the relationship with our police departments by continuing to accuse and look for fault. Look what happens to communities who raise their children this way, many of them are hosting "protests" this week.


5 people like this
Posted by Edward Syrett
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 27, 2014 at 5:03 am

Edward Syrett is a registered user.

The contrast between this situation and the murder of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson could not be more glaring. IMO the officers' actions here, while perhaps not perfect, were entirely justified. No one is fabricating any mythology about how "threatening" Mr. Matheny was. The officers tried using a taser before they resorted to firearms. When a suspect pulls a gun, what's a cop supposed to do? Wait for the suspect to shoot first?

No. In this case I'm inclined to support my local police.


7 people like this
Posted by Bob Jonsen
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 27, 2014 at 8:08 am


On this Thanksgiving Day, as residents across our community prepare to enjoy time with family and friends, I want everybody to know what I’m thankful for.

I am extremely thankful to be the Chief of Police for a law enforcement agency full of outstanding men and women who dedicate their lives serving others.

I am thankful that everyone in this community lives in a place which is a little safer than it was a year ago because of the on-going working relationships between our officers and residents, city-wide crime is down nearly 13%.

I am thankful that the residents of Belle Haven haven’t had to experience a gang-related shooting this year, and that overall crime in Beat 3 has declined 50% because of the exceptional work going on throughout the neighborhood.

I am thankful for all the support, and well wishes, the community provided this department after our officer involved shooting, but I am even more thankful for the continued professionalism each of our officers has displayed in serving this community during a time when there are many members of the public criticizing our profession.

I am thankful to all the members of my Community Advisory Group for their commitment in making MPPD the best organization it can be.

And finally, as most of us spend the day family and friend, I am especially thankful to all the personnel of the Menlo Park Police Department working the holiday so the rest of us can hopefully enjoy a very safe and peaceful Thanksgiving Day.

Bob Jonsen . Chief of Police



3 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 27, 2014 at 8:11 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Mr. Syrett:

Michael Brown was not "murdered." If he had been Darren Wilson would have been indicted. Read the grand jury transcript. Look at the physical evidence. [Part deleted.]


3 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 27, 2014 at 8:14 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Thank you Chief Jonsen. I am happy to live in a city with a great, professional police force led by good Chief.

Thank you to you and all of your officers for keeping us safe.


3 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 27, 2014 at 8:17 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Trust:

well said. I was in law enforcement and it makes me sick to hear the moronic comments of people that have no clue what is involved in doing the job yet feel perfectly justified in telling the police how they should do their jobs. They haven't a clue.


1 person likes this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 27, 2014 at 11:41 am

Glad you're no longer in law enforcement Menlo Voter. That "moronic" comment of yours is the attitude which leads to distrust of law enforcement.

Trust - "Look what happens to communities who raise their children this way, many of them are hosting "protests" this week." Protest is the right of the citizen, not a privilege. The vandalism and violence which sometimes accompanies the protest is unlawful.

In any case this is about the timely safe use of cameras by law enforcement and we should be sticking to that.


1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 27, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

"Glad you're no longer in law enforcement Menlo Voter."

So am I.


Like this comment
Posted by Reality distortion
a resident of another community
on Nov 27, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Trust -- San Mateo sheriff deputies are NOT underpaid. Check out their salaries. It's not a "tantrum" to ask that the taking of human life be recorded to make sure it's only done when absolutely necessary. And your comment that even with the video, none of us could conclude a police use of lethal force situation ever was unjustified is moronic. By that standard, a jury could never decide as well, and the police should operate in an atmosphere of no oversight and no consequences or questioning no matter what. If you believe this (which you say you do, as they should never be "second guessed"), you're not a good student of history. (Yet, the current atmosphere is not too far from this anyway).

Chief Jonson -- are you also proud of the cop in your department who was seeing a prostitute on duty when being (handsomely) paid in his dedication of his life to protect ours, as Trust would say? He's still there, if I'm not mistaken, perhaps working this Thanksgiving shift.

Trust's comments disturb me, particularly when ridiculing protestors as being brought up badly by their parents. Yes, by and large (and I would like to think the great majority of the time), police do their job properly and do not abuse the enormous power and trust they are given by society. We all know this is not 100% of the time, and it really doesn't matter whether it's 30%, 50%, or 99%. Whenever an abuse occurs, it has devastating consequences to those victimized by it, and the question of whether the end (a safe society) justifies the means (occasional police abuses) was decided a long time ago when the bill of rights was composed. Read it. They're not excusable, and being concerned about it does not constitute a "tantrum."


3 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 27, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

reality:

I don't think trust's reference was really about protesters it was about rioters. Those are the ones that don't understand the first amendment guarantees their right to protest, not their right to destroy property. [part removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Sherlock Holmes
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2014 at 9:06 pm

"Sgt. Jaime Romero did activate his camera immediately after the shooting, the police chief said, "probably as quickly as he physically could."

"According to the policy posted on the police department's website on Nov. 21, all on-duty contact with citizens shall be recorded, with an exemption for urgent, dangerous situations: "At no time is a member expected to jeopardize his/her safety in order to activate a recorder or change the recording media. However, the recorder should be activated in all situations as soon as practical."

"The Nov. 11 incident went out as a "suspicious person" call, which Chief Jonsen said normally turns into a case where the person is in fact somewhere they have a right to be. This can make it a challenge to know when to activate a camera, given that the battery carries only about a 3-hour charge, and the officer works a 12-hour shift."
Web Link


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

"A witness at the scene of the shooting who didn't want to be identified said a woman employed at a Willow area business alerted police upon spotting a man who resembled a burglary suspect pictured on a flier distributed by her landlord to commercial tenants."

"Officers responded and "found a male suspect involved in a burglary in progress," according to a police statement. A stolen wallet was found at the scene."
Web Link

This was not a suspicious person but a Burglary suspect at the outset when officers were dispatched to the scene, thus [portion removed. Point out the differences in the accounts and note your perceived contradictions, but don't use Town Square to accuse people of misconduct that has not been proven].

Chief Jonsen implies that because this was a insignificant call for service the officers decided not turn their cameras on in violation of department policy and yet Chief Jonsen is contradicted by the facts and DA Wagstaffe that this was a call about a serious crime in progress and because it was a serious situation from the outset the officers did not have time turn on their cameras without jeopardizing themselves according to DA Wagstaffe.

The question is who is telling the truth, Menlo Park Police Chief Robert Jonsen who says the officer did not turn the cameras on because it was an insignificant call or DA Steve Wagstaffe who says it was a serious call? They both cannot be correct for they contradict each other as to why the cameras were not turned on when the officers showed up at the scene.

How do you know when a suspect is lying, their story keeps changing.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 29, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Editor:

unless I'm mistaken "Sherlock" is the same person posting under t3 on another thread.

Editor's note: The prohibition relates to using more than one name on a single thread.


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

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