Jury Acquits Teen Who Shot and Killed a Friend, Didn’t Know Gun Was Loaded

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From the Associated Press

A Kansas teen who said he didn’t know a gun was loaded when he fatally shot a 14-year-old friend has been acquitted of second-degree murder.

Jurors returned the verdict Wednesday in the case against the Roeland Park teen, who was 13 years old in August when he shot and killed Zavier Mendoza in a home in nearby Olathe, The Kansas City Star reported.

The teen, who is now 14, was with with Mendoza and two other teens when they found a handgun while stealing from cars, according to testimony. Mendoza put the gun’s clip in his pocket, one of the teens told police.

The teens said they then went to the home, where the 13-year-old pointed the unloaded gun at each of them and pulled the trigger before handing the gun back to Mendoza, who put the magazine back into the weapon and handed it back to the 13-year-old, who shot Mendoza with it. The defendant told police that he didn’t realize the clip had been replaced.

In a closing statement Wednesday, assistant district attorney Don Hymer said the killing occurred during a night of lawlessness. He argued that the teen’s actions were reckless and showed extreme indifference to the value of human life.

But defense attorney Jerry Merrill argued that what happened wasn’t murder because his client didn’t know the gun was loaded.

The Star does not generally name juvenile suspects unless their cases are moved to adult court.

comments

  1. avatar Aven says:

    I agree with the jury’s verdict. A 13 year is young and dumb but there is no indication that it was anything other than an accident.

    1. avatar Serpent_Vision says:

      Violating gun safety rules is negligence, not accident.

      Negligent homicide probably would have been a more appropriate charge than 2nd degree murder here.

      1. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

        Yes, murder 2 seemed like a wild overcharge.

  2. avatar 76shovel says:

    No doubt this kid either had no training on safe gun handling or no father at home or both.

    1. avatar Country Boy says:

      IT’S OBVIOUS THIS TEEN WAS A SCUMBAG THEIF TOO……to let him off scot-free is a huge mistake IMHO

      1. avatar Mercury says:

        The problem was the DA charged him with murder 2 (likely to try and get a plea bargain) and his defense knew that was never going to work. Voluntary manslaughter would have been the better charge, and involuntary would have been a slam dunk. Florida, Minnesota and Pennsylvania have a “murder 3” that applies here, but not Kansas.

      2. avatar Ed Schrade says:

        A theif killed another theif, whats the crime ?

        1. avatar Missouri_Mule Esquire Emeritus says:

          The crime is felony murder, in other words second degree murder.
          A death occurring during the commission of a felony.
          The prosecutor blew the case and charged intentional murder.
          The punk should have got 20 to 30 years with eligibility for parole in about 10.

        2. avatar Big Bill says:

          Missouri_Mule Esquire Emeritus says: “A death occurring during the commission of a felony.”
          While usually true, that’s not the case here.
          The death did not occur during the commission of a felony. It occurred after the commission of a felony.

        3. avatar Fosty says:

          I before E except after C

    2. avatar Coolbreeze says:

      Most fathers these days dont.know gun saftey…unless they are Will Smith.

  3. avatar Mad Max says:

    If the actions described in the story are the actual facts, the DA overcharged the perp and lost.

    Based on the above, it was involuntary manslaughter.

    1. avatar rosignol says:

      Is Kansas a felony murder rule state?

      The prosecutor might not have had much choice on the charge.

      1. avatar Missouri_Mule Esquire Emeritus says:

        Felony murder rule (Kansas) … In the state of Kansas, the common law felony murder rule has been codified in K.S.A. 21-3401. The statute defines first degree murder as, among other things, homicide in the commission of, attempt to commit, or escape from an inherently dangerous felony.

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          The crime and the escape were already both complete so such a law arguably wouldn’t apply.

          Were I on the jury you’d have real trouble convincing me that chillin’ back at the spot constitutes actively thieving or escaping.

  4. avatar Grumpy says:

    They over charged him. Not murder, but maybe manslaughter, reckless endangerment, etc. Dumb and/or egotistical prosecutor.
    At any rate, nothing good came of any of this sad story on so many levels.

  5. avatar James Banish says:

    It is tragic the how the shooting happened in the first place. However, there are no victims here but the parents, and the property owners. One the careless property owners leaving a gun loaded under the seat of car. The children stealing a car. The parents have to live with the horror one dead child.

    1. avatar In for a penny, In for a pound says:

      This is not on the the gun owner, it is on the thieves. A dead thief is not a tragedy at all, as it is one less evil coward to prey on the innocent, and a tax break.

      You are not that good of a person, as evidenced by blaming the victim of a crime, the gun owner. That is not an ad hominem, that is simply a statement of the facts at hand.

    2. avatar frank speak says:

      the kid was a criminal…pure and simple…the gun was secured… the kid broke into the car to get it…whatever happened next is on him…

    3. avatar Coolbreeze says:

      If my gun is in my car and I had it chock full of ammo and you stole it, how is it my fault what you decide to do with it next? Oh wait, nevermind, I get it, I get it! It’s just like if, if… my daughter was in my house in her bed, necked as a jaybird, and you entered my house without permission and raped her, it’s my fault. Yup. I got it now. Yup

    4. avatar WARFAB says:

      Did they track down whose care the gun came from? It would be interesting to know if the person they stole it from was a legal owner.

  6. avatar eagle10 says:

    You can put a magazine in a gun and pull the trigger all day long and nothing will happen. UNLESS someone racks the slide and loads a cartridge into the chamber. Then it WILL go bang (as designed) if the trigger is pulled. One of those teenagers pulled back and released the slide to load it. This is not negligence – it was done on purpose.

    1. avatar KC1911 says:

      Not necessarily. IF the handgun had a magazine safety, then with the magazine removed it wouldn’t fire even with a round in the chamber. Once the magazine is re-inserted, THEN it would go BANG. No mention was made (that I saw) of what particular pistol was used.

      1. avatar SAFEupstateFML says:

        Guess that could be how one was in the chamber but never handled anything with a magazine disconnect safety can you still pull the trigger or would it lock in place? Guessing that can vary by model.

      2. avatar IN Dave says:

        I was thinking the same thing. The way the story was written it sounds like a magazine disconnect “could?” be in play here. If that is the case then this is once again proof that mechanical safeties are a false sense of security. Now if we would make gun safety part of school curriculum then the prosecutor could have easily gotten a murder charge.

      3. avatar TommyJay says:

        In my experience with mag disconnects, sans magazine the trigger moves the full range of motion, and back again, with a very light pull. So yeah, it is possible that nobody racked the slide, unless there was no mag. disconnect.

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          As SAFE guesses above, it varies by model. Some work as you suggest, others the trigger locks in place when the mag is removed. The Star B and BM models are examples of the latter.

        2. avatar Dave G. says:

          TommyJay & strych9:
          The magazine safety disconnect also locks the trigger on the Ruger LC9s.

    2. avatar Coolbreeze says:

      Agreed…and somebodys’ is a’lying there ass off to avoid prison.

  7. avatar Mikey says:

    So a group of thugs play ghetto roulette and someone died? Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

  8. avatar 2a sux sucks says:

    This is why they need gun safety in school

    1. avatar Jim from LI says:

      You’re assuming these yoots actually spend enough time in school to actually learn anything.

  9. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Don’t know about there, but it here it would have been burglary of a conveyance, 1 count for each vehicle, grand theft of a firearm and second degree homicide. For every person involved. Regardless of who pulled the trigger. In Florida anytime anyone dies as a result of a felony everyone involved in the felony is guilty of 2nd degree murder. No matter who the deceased is.

    1. avatar rt66paul says:

      That could be true, but a 13 year old is too young to charged as an adult, so if he was found guilty, he would end up in Juvenile Hall.

      1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

        rt66, better juvenile hall than the street. Besides here the “juvenile halls” for serious felonies look just like adult maximum security prisons. They ain’t church camp. BTW, cool screen name. I remember the original Route 66 television show. Just a child, but I remember.

        1. avatar LarryinTX says:

          ’61 and ’62 Corvettes, I liked the cars better than the show.

    2. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      ” In Florida anytime anyone dies as a result of a felony everyone involved in the felony is guilty of 2nd degree murder.”

      Yeah, I don’t see why the felony theft isn’t resulting in a charge on this…

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        Because it didnt happen in Florida?

        1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          Stryc9, burglary is a felony in every state.

        2. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

          Try to follow along… It’s the “if someone dies during a felony blah blah blah” rule that doesn’t apply everywhere.

      2. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

        Eric, you try to follow along. Geoff wondered why there was not a charge of felony theft. Strych9 response was it didn’t happen in Florida. I then pointed out burglary is a felony in every state. The conversation had moved beyond the 2nd degree murder question. I know we were using words with multiple syllables, but it wasn’t Latin. Blah, blah blah.

        1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          Eric, one other minor point of law. It’s not a “rule.” It’s a state statute. If ignorance is all you can espouse you should be quite and not embarrass yourself.

        2. avatar LarryinTX says:

          He should be quite what?

        3. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

          Quite impressed that Gads managed to reply to one message twice, both times incorrectly 🙂

          Seriously, he literally still hasn’t caught up with what was going on in the thread from above.

    3. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      Oh, possession of a firearm by an under age person. Maybe dealing in stolen property. Never mind woulda, coulda, shoulda excuses. This guy and his friends are thug felons. The jury let him go. I’ll bet my meager bank account he’ll be involved in more felonies in the future.

      1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

        I’ve been impressed in the past by your alleged LE background and experience. Your comment here tarnishes that and makes you look like a jaded curmudgeon.

        1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          Haz, nothing alleged about it. I don’t “woof shit” as we used to say when I was stupid enough to jump out of airplanes for the army. Jaded? Yeah I guess I can be. But then I’ve been the victim of a burglary and lost several firearms among other property. Got back one firearm and one of my wife’s rings. The suspects were arrested and convicted. Both juveniles. Then I spent over two decades dealing with those shitbirds. So, jaded? Upon reflection that’s too weak. I hate those motherfucking asswipes.

        2. avatar rosignol says:

          I’ve known a couple of retired cops. “Jaded curmudgeon” was what they were like on the good days.

        3. avatar SAFEupstateFML says:

          Honestly jaded is a common description for a lot of long term law enforcement. I was lucky with my enlistment where I only had to do post police (second worst MP job) for a year. Domestics, false rape accusations, child abuse, and real rape accusations in about that order. Don’t know how people can do that for 20+ years and not be a bit less than optimistic.

      2. avatar JR Pollock says:

        Darwin will get another bite at their apples..

    4. avatar Coolbreeze says:

      I like that approach.

  10. avatar former water walker says:

    Raise your hand if you care if this criminal yout “didn’t know” his stolen gat was loaded?!?✋Geez a large % of crimes in Chiraq are committed by underage teens. No carveout for kids!

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      No carveout for felonies should be an easy lift.

  11. avatar strych9 says:

    Sounds like what it probably is. Some dipshit kids dabbled in crime, found a gun, played gangster and someone ended up dead because they had no idea what they were doing.

    Why do I guess that they were dabbling? Because actual gangbangers know how to use a pistol.

    1. avatar Coolbreeze says:

      Could be…but could be that they really wanted to murder the deceased and cooked up the ‘accident ‘ story later. You know, sometimes lil’ children tell fibs when Mommy catches them being naughty.

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        Could be lots of things but the simplest explanation is usually closer to being right.

        The idea that they really wanted to murder this kid and the whole thing was premeditated would entail a lot of convenient things falling together and some pretty good acting on the part of the kids in terms of the victim, cops and the jury. Possible, and stranger things have certainly happened but I’d rate it as pretty unlikely.

        1. avatar LarryinTX says:

          Yeah, do we believe the kid was really tricky despite being 13, or do we believe he was incredibly stupid?

  12. avatar Vlad Tepes says:

    The irresponsible hill jack parents should have been arrested and imprisoned and could have if there had been a safe storage law. More irrefutable proof of how safe storage laws are needed.

    1. avatar Karl says:

      “Florida Statute 790.174 “Safe Storage of a Firearm Required” — the state’s only law on firearm security — requires a gun owner to secure their weapon in a locked box, in a “secure” location, or with a trigger lock on the gun if a minor is likely to gain access to the weapon in the gun owner’s home.”

    2. avatar I believe in research says:

      Another attempt to reach you through research.

      Child access prevention laws were associated with increased firearm-related deaths in 2009. The Boston University group looked at all types of gun laws in the United States correlating certain laws with certain states and comparing their gun violence rates. They came to bold conclusions that states with universal background checks for guns and ammunition, and firearm identification laws were associated with reduced deaths. Hmm, but they also showed that states with assault weapon bans and child access prevention laws were associated with increased deaths! At least they were honest enough to report all the data.

      EVEN THOUGH CHILD ACCESS LAWS SEEM “COMMON SENSE”, RESEARCH SHOWS NO RELATIONSHIP WITH DECREASED GUN VIOLENCE

      Firearm legislation and firearm mortality in the USA: a cross-sectional, state-level study. Kalesan B, Mobily ME, Keiser O, Fagan JA, Galea S. Lancet. 2016 Apr 30;387(10030):1847-55.

      This story of the Olathe teen burglarizing cars and shooting his friend is a great example how safe storage would not have helped.

      1. avatar Vlad Tepes says:

        YOU BELIEVE IN PURE BULLSHIT

        In 2015, 13 million US households with children also contained firearms.1 In that same year approximately 14 000 youth younger than 20 years were treated for nonfatal firearm injuries,2 and 2800 youths died by gunfire (of whom more than 1100 died by suicide or unintentional firearm injury).3 The firearm used in suicides comes from the youth’s home in approximately 9 of 10 deaths, and from the home of the victim or the victim’s relative or friend in 9 of 10 unintentional firearm deaths.4

        The presence of a gun in a household substantially increases the risk of suicide and unintentional firearm death.5-11 Moreover, when guns are present in a home with youth, storing all firearms locked as opposed to unlocked, unloaded as opposed to loaded, and storing all ammunition locked and separate from firearms have each been associated with a reduced risk of intentional self-inflicted and unintentional firearm injuries.4

        1. avatar Vlad Tepes says:

          AND YET ANOTHER STUDY

          A study published this week in JAMA Pediatrics reinforces a sobering reality: that far too many minors are gaining access to firearms and either committing suicide or accidentally killing themselves — or others. Last year more than 4,500 children age 17 or younger were killed or wounded with guns. While suicide statistics for 2018 aren’t available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported a sharp rise in recent youth suicides, about half of which historically have involved a gun.

          But the new study also concluded that up to a third of accidental gun deaths and suicides among children could be avoided if the adults with whom they lived locked up their guns. “Results of this modeling study suggest that a relatively modest uptake of a straightforward safe storage recommendation — lock all household firearms — could result in meaningful reductions in firearm suicide and unintentional firearm fatalities among youth,” the study concluded. That’s a big “if.” An earlier study found that only 30% of self-identified gun owners who lived with children safely stored their guns. Even people who should know better fail at such a basic safety step. Last weekend, a 4-year-old boy in Toledo found one of his father’s unsecured guns and fatally shot himself in the face. The boy’s father is an Ohio state trooper.

          Easy access to firearms is a significant part of our current state of our national carnage.

        2. avatar Void says:

          And yet again most of the instances are very similar to this one with criminal misbehavior involved. Too bad so sad try your next script.

      2. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Yo, Vlad the hopefully impaled, nobody cares abut the dead punk.

        1. avatar Nicole Stockdale says:

          What a horrible and insensitive comment. May you never have this happen in your family, or to anyone you know.
          From the beloved victims family member,
          Aunt Nicky

    3. avatar Coolbreeze says:

      They broke in to the ‘safe’.

    4. avatar LarryinTX says:

      What parents? Are we talking about the same article? The kids stole a gun from a car! There are no parents involved, my guess would be the parents did not own guns, or the kids might have known better.

  13. avatar Kendahl says:

    Prosecutor overcharged. Jury said, “He’s guilty but not for what he was being tried.” Kid should have been tried (and convicted) for involuntary manslaughter.

    A drunk was speeding down the road and hit a car that turned left in front of him. That driver was drunk, too. The first drunk survived but the second drunk and his passenger died. The passenger’s father persuaded the county attorney to try the surviving drunk for motor vehicle homicide. The jury acquitted him. Afterward, the guy’s lawyer stated that a DUI conviction would have been a slam dunk but homicide was an overreach that he knew would fail. The father wrote a tearful letter to the newspaper complaining that his son’s murderer got off. That was true but blame for it fell equally on the prosecutor for overcharging and on the son for riding with a drunk.

  14. Unfortunately , In the peoples Republic of M Assachusetts….The owner of the vehicle would have been charged with improper storage, leaving a unsecured firearm 🔥 in an unattended motor vehicle, and probably charge the owner with manslaughter….For the Death of course….Where as the young “Thugs Life” crooks should have ALL gotten a “Darwin Award….”

  15. avatar Timothy Toroian says:

    Stealing from cars? He deserves some kind of punishment, sort of like felony murder only to a lesser degree. The death was the result of criminal activity at home later or not.

    1. avatar UpInArms says:

      He beat the murder rap, but there is still a whole laundry list of other crimes he can be charged with and tried for. Unless the prosecutors in Kansas are total dimwits, he’ll do time for something.

  16. avatar CNS says:

    Seems like the prosecutor overcharged on this case. Charging someone with murder requires the prosecutor to prove intent. This seems like an accident, meaning there was no intent to kill. If he had changed the kid with manslaughter, he probably would have gotten a conviction.

  17. avatar Wally1 says:

    This was actually murder, the juvenile was in possession of a stolen firearm, committed additional thefts from vehicles while armed with a firearm, also felonies. And then a fellow criminal gets shot and killed, accident or not, he was in the act of a felony for stealing and being in possession of the firearm. The murder charge was appropriate, either way a conviction would not change anything, this little gangster scumbag would be out when he turned 18 or 21. Nothing will change, he will continue his thug life and victimize society until he runs into the wrong person who assists him at assuming room temperature.

  18. avatar herb gerbert says:

    retard fudd judge.. the time has long past since judges were wise to take every case separately and try to reconcile the guilty with law abiding society, now it is only appropriate to separate the lawless criminal from a society that has long suffered the mercies of liberal and bleeding heart judges. I hope the next person this little nasty criminal attempts to prey on uses the 2nd to full effect.

  19. avatar James W Crawford says:

    Just wait for it. The owner of the car that the gun was stolen from will be charged with murder and convicted. It will not matter that the gun was almost certainly a modern, plastic fantastic, DAO, striker fired pistol with neither a manual safety nor a magazine disconnect safety. It will not matter that the perpetrator of this shooting needed to not only insert the loaded magazine in the pistol but also cycle the slide to chamber a round to enable the pistol to discharge a deadly bullet.

    The only justice in this case is that one of the thieving car prowlers got himself killed.

    1. avatar Nicole Stockdale says:

      He will not be charged for his negligence of leaving his loaded gun in his unlocked vehicle. This is the Aunt of the young boys life you find not worth anything but death. I posted the actual facts in a lengthy response to these comments.
      May you never experience such a tragedy.

  20. avatar Areley Ermey says:

    Was it an M-1 Garand? I’m sure it had to have been since it was a “clip” being placed in a pocket, and again in the weapon?

  21. avatar Nicole Stockdale says:

    I’ve read through a few of your comments. I am the aunt of the victim. There is more to this story than you all know. If you read the transcript, you would see a lot of evidence that proves ALL 4 boys were reckless – yes, being stupid teens, which I’m sure NONE of you have ever been. They were teens who were being idiots by jiggling handles hoping to find loose change in open cars. Instead. They found a loaded 40 caliber Ruger with 6, yes SIX, different safety features. Including a red indicator to shows the magazine was loaded. The 3 living boys conveniently couldn’t remember, nor heard, the clip reinserted to the gun. They handled the gun for at least 20 minutes (again, their memory is from 20-60minutes) before it was actually fired. They left Zavier on the porch, never checked if he was even still alive, ran away, came back, threw away the gun, came back gain and walked over his body to get in the house to compose their “story” about a stranger shooting Zavier. So yes, facts are the gun owner was negligent in leaving his truck unlocked, loaded and not having a gun safe if he chooses to store his gun in his vehicle. Yes, they were stealing. Does that warrant the loss of a life? Prior to this incident, my nephew had never been involved with the police. He had a smile that was contagious and he was loved by many, friends, family, school staff. For anyone to say he got what he deserved is ridiculius and I pray you never have to go through the loss of a loved one to a violent crime, twice. The shooter was given a charge of 2nd degree murder and an option for the jurors was also involuntary manslaughter. Yet, with a confession from the shooter, his brother and the other young man that the shooter did willingly aim and pull that trigger, and decide to not even give any kind of sentence is beyond words. Three days of testimony and, I believe, I am not 100% sure, but one closing statement from the defense attorney, which was not founded with any evidence, gave the blame to Zavier, for supposedly putting the magazine back in the gun before the gun was shot, at his face, from 6-18″ away. I believe they rather let that statement hang in their minds to give blame elsewhere vs convicting a 13 year old. No one could conveniently “remember” who/when the magazine was put back in the gun-therefor, leaving an opening for the defense attorney to blame my dead nephew who can no longer speak up for himself.
    The district attorney’s did a great job of showing just how reckless ALL of these 4 boys were. How the jury let age sway them is beyond me. This shooter never cried except after 4+hrs of interrogation, because they told 3 initial stories about who shot Zavier. When the others finally confessed, he cried because he knew he’d been caught. Not for what he’d done.
    I am only stating facts, all can be read in the court transcripts. Our family is destroyed and have heavy hearts.
    Be aware of where your firearm is at all times. I am a gun owner and have taken numerous classes and know what my responsibilities are as a gun owner.
    Teach your children/teens the golden rule: every gun is a loaded gun. They are to treated with respect and never pointed at anyone.
    May you all have blessings in your life and find joy around every corner.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      “They were stealing” means the gun owner should not be charged. It’s that simple. If the door was not locked, that does not mean they thought the vehicle belonged to them, they knew they were stealing and committing a crime. Beyond that, it means I don’t much care, you may think this is common behavior for young teenagers, but I can assure you it is not. Not for me or any of my 5 brothers, not for our friends and neighbors, not for my sons, and not for anyone I knew as a kid or an adult, and I am now 73. Pretending that burglary and felony theft is some manner of juvenile hijinks and should be simply amusing or something, would be called “enabling”, and should be punishable under the law in a sane society.

      1. avatar Nicole Stockdale says:

        The gun owner is not being charged. I simply said he was negligent in not securing his firearm.
        No, it’s not common behavior, at least it wasn’t for my nephew or my four children of my own. It isn’t for most kids, but for youth without the proper guidance and structure, who have nothing, sadly, a lot of these kids do this. It’s a different time we are living in. What was common sense and respect does not seem to be the standard for many these days. Had he lived, and been caught, I would have stood behind the law and told him so. The point is, my nephew shall never have the chance to learn by his mistakes, as I pray & hope these other 3 boys do.

  22. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    This is the price Liberals are willing to pay to keep Arms education out of the public schools.

    from President James Madison about his children:

    “One of the things which I wish to have them taught – and which no man can teach better than you – is the use and management of firearms. This must undoubtedly be done with great caution, but it is customary among us – particularly when children are under the direction of ladies – to withhold it too much and too long from boys. The accidents which happen among children arise more frequently from their ignorance than from their misuse of weapons which they know to be dangerous.”

    https://wallbuilders.com/guns-kids-critics/

    This is why I say Liberals and the Left support children being shot dead to help them disarm the civil population.

    1. avatar Dave G. says:

      @Chris T in KY:
      Read it again. According to the article, that quote is from John Quincy Adams, not James Madison. Today, the irony of it is that Adams was from Massachusetts.

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