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Charges Dropped Against 2 Fired-Upon Men

Detectives decide they lack evidence for case.

Posted: March 3, 2008 5:53 p.m.
Updated: May 2, 2008 5:02 a.m.
The Sheriff's Department has released two Canyon Country men who were arrested this week after a sheriff's deputy opened fire on a man reportedly seen spray-painting graffiti on a wall.

Jesse James Prasch and Anthony Mercado, both 21, were freed Thursday, and felony charges of vandalism were dropped, after detectives determined there was insufficient evidence against them, sheriff's Sgt. Darren Harris said Friday.

The two were arrested around 11 p.m. Wednesday along with Gregorio Prial, 21, of Canyon Country - who remains in custody - after deputies reportedly saw Prial tagging a wall with graffiti near Soledad Canyon Road and Sierra Highway.

As they approached Prial, Prasch and Mercado reportedly pulled up in a car and Prial got into the front passenger seat.

Prasch and Mercado complied with the deputies' order to put up their hands, while Prial reportedly reached under his seat. At that point, the deputy who was approaching the driver's side and shining a flashlight into the car fired a shot, which lodged in the door panel, Harris said.

Investigators recovered an unspecified item that was not a gun from under the passenger seat, Harris said.

The deputy who opened fire is a 19-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Harris said.

In a stop like Wednesday's, he said, the first step a deputy will take is to order a suspect to put up his or her hands.

"The hands are what's going to hurt us," Harris said, and added that deputies will direct their focus on anyone who does not comply with an order.

As with deputies who fired their weapons in the line of duty Feb. 22, the deputy in Wednesday's shooting was given the option of five days of administrative duty. In neither case was "desk duty" required because in neither case was anyone injured.

"These are human beings," Harris said. "Anytime that a deputy has to use lethal force ... it's challenging.
"It's a traumatic situation."

When a deputy-involved shooting occurs, an on-call Internal Affairs lieutenant determines who needs to respond as part of a shooting response team, Harris said.

In addition to Internal Affairs, that team can include members of the department's Professional Standards and Training Division, the civil litigation unit, medical services, risk management and employee support services.

As with any deputy-involved shooting, Wednesday's incident is being investigated.

While Prasch and Mercado were released, Prial remains in custody without bail on a felony charge off vandalism, Harris said. At the time of his arrest, Prial was on parole.


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