District Attorney

Police Shot Mentally Ill Woman After She Pointed Gun at Them, Prosecutors Say

Monterey County prosecutors on Tuesday released new details in the fatal Salinas police shooting of 20-year-old Brenda Rodriguez Mendoza on March 1.

Officers were called to the 1000 block of East Laurel Drive at about 10:45 a.m. that day after a resident at the address reported Mendoza had allegedly threatened her with a screwdriver.

Mendoza lived in a broken-down Ford Explorer in the driveway of the home and was not allowed inside the house, according to prosecutors.

Police responded to the residence and requested that Mendoza come out of her vehicle, which had black spray-painted windows and a broken window covered with a bag. Prosecutors said she then pointed an airsoft gun out the window and threatened to kill officers.

Police were unable to tell at the time if the gun was real or a replica, even after Mendoza's boyfriend arrived and told officers she had two BB guns.

A hostage negotiator contacted mental health professionals before speaking with Mendoza, and determined she had a history of mental illness, including psychosis.

Body-worn camera footage and a transcript of hostage negotiator Officer Raul Rosales' conversation with Mendoza leading up to the shooting depicts her fading in and out of coherence as officers ask her to step out of her vehicle.

Rosales asks multiple times if she would like to speak to her case worker or family, and the situation escalates after Mendoza is seen holding what appears to be a black handgun.

Mendoza is told multiple times to drop her gun, and responds, "Why, you gonna shoot, or what?" and "I don't wanna..."

She says "Whee!" as she moves, and gunshots can be heard in the video immediately after.

District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni held a news conference Tuesday morning, saying her office had completed several interviews but would not yet release a decision on whether officers acted lawfully.

Officers Bryan McKinley, Carlo Calupad and Robert Miller fired 18 rounds, according to prosecutors, and Mendoza died at the scene.

She mentioned Mendoza had sent a message to her mother saying she would kill herself during the standoff, and could not be consoled by officers or family. Mendoza had also had a baby three weeks earlier, but was not allowed to keep the child because it was allegedly born with methamphetamine it its system.

Mendoza flashed the airsoft gun four times during the standoff, according to Pacioni, and was shot the last time while facing officers with the weapon. Forensic teams have not yet determined how many times she was hit.

Police said in interviews that they did not use less-lethal rubber bullets because only her head was visible, and the rubber bullets could have been fatal if they hit her head. They couldn't establish proper range to use a Taser, police told prosecutors.

Mendoza was found to be using an anti-depressant at the time of the shooting, and officers found prenatal vitamins and prescription medications for depression and anxiety disorders inside her vehicle. After her death, dozens of her family and friends marched on Salinas City Hall in protest.

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