The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has released the body camera footage and audio of the deputy-involved shooting of Christopher Lee Mercurio on Jan. 11 at the Westfield Valencia Town Center.
Mercurio, 50, was shot in front of Macy’s at 10:58 p.m., as a female deputy from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, referenced in the LASD videos as deputy No. 1, was responding to a call for service regarding a male trespassing.
The 911 call reported a male “transient” causing problems at the west entrance of the Valencia mall, then was later found sleeping at the location, as seen in the “Critical Incident Briefing – Santa Clarita Valley Station, 01/11/23” video posted by LASD on its YouTube page on Saturday.
The caller reported the man “basically wants to start a fight whenever (the workers) go up to him” and that, in attempts to talk to him, the man had said, “The only way I’m getting out of here is if I put one of you into a chokehold.”
The caller requested sheriff’s deputies’ assistance in making the man leave the property.
The video then plays the interaction when the female deputy, who responded solo to the call, first contacted Mercurio. The video is first shown from the perspective of a security camera and then from the body-worn camera.
In the video where the audio begins, the deputy approaches Mercurio and asks for his date of birth, and his answer was redacted from the audio. She continues to explain that her being there was a result of a call from mall security.
“Yeah, I’m not gonna move at all. I will actually kill every f—er that comes here,” said Mercurio.
“Well, we don’t want that,” said the deputy.
“I don’t care, that’s where I’m at,” said Mercurio.
The deputy made an attempt to de-escalate the situation by telling Mercurio she was just trying to talk to him.
Mercurio said he was going to continue sleeping at the location where he had been.
“(S)o you can either protect or defend or I’m gonna f—ing destroy your f—ing human being, understand?” said Mercurio.
The two engaged in a brief verbal exchange and Mercurio stepped forward toward the deputy.
She then told Mercurio twice to step back.
“I’m gonna f— your a– up b—-,” said Mercurio.
The deputy told Mercurio again to step back and raised her arm to Mercurio’s chest level.
Mercurio began yelling, “I said get the f— out of here now!”
He moved forward and engaged in a fight with the deputy.
Mercurio threw punches at the deputy’s face and head, the video shows.
The deputy proceeded to radio that she was in a fight and said, “Get off me, get off me” to Mercurio.
As the deputy made space between her and Mercurio, he said “F— you” and called her a racial slur.
The deputy then pulled out her gun.
“If you come any closer I’m gonna shoot you,” said the deputy as she backed away from Mercurio.
The deputy repeated, “I’m gonna shoot,” five more times as Mercurio kept approaching her and she kept backing away.
As he continued to advance, Mercurio said, “Shoot.”
It was at this moment that the deputy shot her first round.
“Get off me, get off,” said the deputy.
Mercurio proceeded to make his way toward the deputy. She fired a second round at Mercurio.
“Stop, stop moving or I’m gonna continue to shoot you, stop,” said the deputy.
Mercurio finally stopped walking toward the deputy and made his way back to where he had originally been sitting. He sat and then collapsed to the ground.
“Suspect down,” the deputy said on her radio.
A second deputy, a male deputy identified in the video as deputy No. 2, arrived shortly after the first deputy discharged her service weapon and, after confirming he was no longer a threat, he said Mercurio was still breathing and began providing medical aid to him.
According to the video, Mercurio had been shot in the upper left chest area.
Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedics responded and took over medical response on Mercurio, who was transported to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
The deputy was transported to a local hospital for treatment of injuries to her face and head.
According to the video, the California Department of Justice division of law enforcement has reviewed the incident and is now in control of the investigation. The incident was deemed a qualifying event under Assembly Bill 1506 guidelines.
Under AB 1506, the CDOJ will disseminate relevant information and materials about covered incidents and make public its determinations regarding the criminal prosecution of such incidents.
Members of CDOJ were briefed by LASD homicide investigators and assumed control of the crime scene and investigation.
The CDOJ press office said via email this week that the investigation remains pending. “We can confirm this is an ongoing AB 1506 investigation. To protect its integrity, we’re unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.”
Once the review and investigation are complete, the report will be presented to the District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division so it can determine if the force used was within the law.
After that, LASD’s Internal Affairs Bureau will complete an administrative investigation of the incident. Its Executive Force Review Committee will evaluate the performance of the deputies and determine if their tactics and use of deadly force were within policy.
The LASD video can be found at bit.ly/3mGXNhr. It contains scenes viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised. While the deputy’s identity has been released by LASD, her name was not used in this story pending an outcome of the investigation.