'A numb moment for us': Fatal shooting of Philly officer came days after 3 other officers were shot
Richard Mendez, 50, was a 22-year veteran of the force; his gun has not been located since the incident
Duty Death: Richard Mendez - [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]
End of Service: 10/12/2023
By Will Weissert and Bruce Shipkowski
PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia police officer was shot and killed and a second officer was wounded when they confronted people breaking into a car at Philadelphia International Airport, police said.
Interim Police Commissioner John Stanford said veteran officers Richard Mendez and Raul Ortiz had just arrived at work around 11 p.m. Thursday when they heard breaking glass and saw several people breaking into a vehicle in the parking garage area. A confrontation ensued, and Mendez was shot multiple times. Ortiz was shot once in his arm, Stanford said, and one of the suspects was also wounded.
Both officers were taken to hospitals, but Mendez was pronounced dead about 30 minutes later, Stanford said. Ortiz remained hospitalized Friday in stable condition. Both were assigned to the airport unit.
The suspects fled the scene in an SUV that authorities later learned had been reported stolen in the city about a week ago. The vehicle was later seen at a hospital in Philadelphia dropping off 18-year-old Jesus Herman Madera Duran, who authorities say was believed to be involved in the confrontation with the officers. Duran was shot in the chest, abdomen and left arm and was pronounced dead around 11:30 p.m. Thursday.
It wasn't clear if any other suspects were wounded in the shooting, authorities said, or how many of them had fired weapons.
The shooting took place in the garage for the airport's Terminal D, which was temporarily closed during the initial investigation but later reopened. Stanford noted that the shooting came only a week after three officers were shot and wounded while responding to a call.
“A numb, numb moment for us, to again encounter something like this,” he said.
Mendez, 50, was a 22-year veteran of the force and was married with one daughter. His gun has not been located, Stanford said, and it's not yet known if anyone fired the weapon during the confrontation.
Ortiz, 60, is a 20-year veteran of the department. He is married with three children.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said law enforcement staff across multiple agencies were working to identify those responsible but said they lacked the ability to match crime scene ballistics to firearms through a database of gun sales, citing a lack of gun regulation. Pennsylvania state law prevents law enforcement and government agencies from having firearm registries.
Joseph Regan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police State Lodge, mourned the officer's death and said members were praying for the wounded officer.
“We lost a hero," Regan said.
A reward of $148,500 was being offered for information leading to an arrest. Two local police unions — Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 and Lodge 27 in Delaware County — initially provided a combined $30,000 to fund the reward. They soon received donations from numerous police groups, businesses and residents in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The reward would be in addition to a $20,000 reward that the city has offered for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.
Speaking Friday at a news conference to announce the police unions' reward, Lodge 5 President John McNesby said the city's police force was “undermanned” and said more officers were needed in the streets. He also was critical of the district attorney's office, saying that if violent offenders are not prosecuted “that sends a message they can do what they want.”
Calling the two officers “standouts” and noting their long service to the city, McNesby said the loss was a tough one for their colleagues and the department.
“I saw more tears last night than I’ve ever seen in all my years here,” McNesby said.
President Joe Biden, who was in Philadelphia on Friday, offered his condolences the families of the officers.
“They put their lives on the line to protect this community,” he said.