Court docs: Cousin intervenes in arrest leading to stabbing of Pasco officers, fatal shooting

PASCO, Wash. — Court documents are shedding light on the events leading up to the stabbing of two Pasco officers and gunshots that killed 18-year-old Alejandro Betancourt-Mendoza. It also explains Martin Mendoza’s involvement leading up to his arrest.

According to probable cause documents obtained by KAPP-KVEW, police got a call on Dec. 14 around 8:09 p.m. from a 12-year-old girl reporting a theft. Officers showed up to the home near 18th Drive and Jay Street.

The girl said her uncle was stealing cell phones out of the house and he was still inside, court documents said.

Officers arrived about six minutes later. Those officers were identified as Ben Boykin, Jason Griffin and Kierra Peoples. Documents say all of them were wearing body cameras and two of the officer’s cameras were activated from the time they got there to when they left.

Documents say Officer Peoples talked to the girl in a car parked outside the house. She was in the car with another family member.

Meanwhile, Griffin and Boykin went to the front door and a woman answered the door. According to documents, the officers were heard on the body cameras asking her if they could go inside the house, which the woman agreed to.

Court documents explained that a short time later, a man went into the house through the back door leading to the dining room. Those documents identify him as Alejandro Betancourt-Mendoza. He was also identified by family members as the person who was stealing cell phones.

After starting a conversation with him, he “places his hand at or near his right pocket,” documents said. The affidavit said the pocket had a “black folding style tactical knife which was clipped to his pocket.”

Through body camera video observed by detectives, officers quickly moved to prevent him from placing his hands near his pockets so he could not get the knife, documents said. Boykin said during an interview that he saw Betancourt-Mendoza reach for the knife. Griffin said he was “going to secure the knife and was trying to reach and remove it from Mr. Betancourt-Mendoza’s pocket when he pulled away and began resisting their attempts,” documents said.

Documents further explained that when officers attempted to grab Betancourt-Mendoza’s arm, he pulled away from officers. The officers took him to the ground.

Body camera video caught the officers on camera asking why he was reaching for the knife, documents said. Boykin and Peoples told detectives that they “had complete control of Mr. Betancourt-Mendoza at that time,” documents stated.

Officers told him that he was under arrest and they were going to put him in handcuffs. “Mr. Betancourt-Mendoza is still verbally non-compliant at that time,” the affidavit said.

“As they begin to transition to handcuffing, chaos erupts,” documents explained.

The chaos began because of 24-year-old Martin Mendoza charging towards the officers who were still actively controlling Mr. Betancourt-Mendoza, the affidavit said. Betancourt-Mendoza is Martin’s cousin.

“Martin exits the back bedroom and according to multiple family members who were interviewed was moving with purpose towards the officers,” the documents said.

Documents state that family members knew Martin’s intent was to intervene in the arrest of his cousin. Multiple family members physically tried to stop him from getting in the living room where the struggle was occurring. Court documents said he pushed past them and “immediately assaulted Officer Griffin from behind by grabbing his exterior ballistic vest as Officer Griffin worked to control Mr. Betancourt-Mendoza.”

Griffin told detectives he heard yelling coming from down the hall and saw Martin charge towards officers. He then said he had been holding Betancourt-Mendoza to the floor during that time with the other two officers.

According to documents, Griffin got up from holding down Betancourt-Mendoza, “believing Officer Peoples and Officer Boykin were still controlling and taking custody of Mr. Betancourt-Mendoza.”

Officer Griffin told investigators that he and Martin started fighting in the middle of the living room, documents said. They went to the floor, pinned against a couch. The affidavit said Griffin was trying to secure Martin’s arms, but couldn’t because Martin was wedged against the couch.

Griffin told detectives he struggled for about 10 to 15 seconds before he heard two gunshots “very close to him,” documents said. He looked over and saw Boykin “bleeding profusely.”

Documents say Boykin told Griffin that he had been stabbed. Griffin also saw Peoples with blood on her face, not knowing she had been stabbed at the time.

While Martin was fighting with Griffin, Betancourt-Mendoza broke loose from the other officers, documents said. That’s when he allegedly pulled out the knife from his pocket, opened it and started “swinging the knife towards the officers,” court documents said.

Boykin was stabbed in the right arm, causing damage to an artery. A tourniquet was applied before he was rushed to emergency surgery at Lourdes. Peoples was stabbed twice on the right side of her face. Documents explain that her face eventually became swollen caused by an infection, which is believed to have stemmed from the stab wounds.

Officer Peoples also had a cut to her uniform near her shoulder, but wasn’t injured there.

The documents said after Officer Boykin was stabbed and Peoples was seen on body cameras being assaulted by the Betancourt-Mendoza, Boykin shot him twice. The shots hit his chest and Betancourt-Mendoza died at the scene.

During the fight, family members were begging Martin to stop fighting with Griffin after the shots were fired, documents said. Boykin told detectives that Martin was going towards the knife that was on the ground after the shooting. That’s when he told Martin he would shoot him, documents said.

While that was happening, documents say Griffin was trying to control Martin and get him into handcuffs. When Pasco Officer Garret got to the scene, Martin was put into handcuffs.

According to interviews later conducted with Officers Peoples and Boykin, they said they had complete control of Betancourt-Mendoza. They told detectives that the only reason they couldn’t safely arrest him was because of Martin’s assault on Officer Griffin and “intent to involve himself in the situation,” court documents explained.

Detectives say the body cameras show Betancourt-Mendoza on the floor being arrested by officers. According to the probable cause affidavit, the situation is “relatively calm and controlled with the officers talking with Mr. Betancourt-Mendoza just prior to Martin running into the room.”

In the video, detectives say Betancourt-Mendoza can be seen repeatedly moving his right hand towards the head of Officer Peoples in a stabbing motion as she tried to control him on the ground, according to court documents. This happened during the fight when Boykin was stabbed.

After the shooting, Martin was heard telling officers that he is “sorry” for his actions, and he was trying to protect his cousin, documents stated.

According to the probable cause, Martin was interviewed after his rights were read to him. He said the officer told him to stop and grabbed him. Martin then told investigators that he did grab the officers and said, “What’s you trying to do boy?” and “You think you got a badge,” documents stated.

Martin told detectives in an interview that he was trying to push the officer off of him when he heard the gunshots, documents said. He said he also heard the officers say they were stabbed.

“Martin further clarified that he physically pushed past his girlfriend and his cousins to access the officers who he stated were not allowing him to help his cousin,” documents stated.

Later in the interview, documents say Martin told detectives that he believed Betancourt-Mendoza was resisting officers and that he does “not take s*** from anyone.” According to Martin, his cousin always carries a knife and had tried to stab him in the past, documents said.

Documents state that there is a current case against Betancourt-Mendoza involving a knife and a confrontation with a neighbor. Martin described the knife in the interview, which was nearly identical to the one that was used to stab the officers, documents said.

He also said that Betancourt-Mendoza told him earlier that if the police came to see him [Betancourt-Mendoza] that they had “better kill him because he did not want to go back to jail,” documents said.
Betancourt-Mendoza’s sister spoke to police and said Martin came from down the hall and she tried to stop him, documents stated.  She said she tried to stop him, but he pushed past her and grabbed one of the officers.

The Special Investigation Unit is in charge of the investigation, consisting of officers and agencies not associated with the Pasco Police Department. Documents say detectives got the knife used at the scene, which was locked in the open position and found what appeared to be blood and/or soft tissue on the tip of it, documents said.

The probable cause states this information is from evidence at the scene, body camera footage and interviews with witnesses and officers involved.

“It is not a complete record of all the facts and circumstances of the investigation, but it is merely meant to establish probable cause for the arrest and detention of Martin Mendoza,” court documents said.

Mendoza was arrested by Special Investigation Unit detectives on Dec. 24 for two counts of assault in the first degree and one count of assault in the third degree. He appeared in a Franklin County courtroom via video monitor on Thursday under a 72-hour hold.

His bail has been set at $1 million. He’ll be back in court on Dec. 31.