Crime

New footage released in officer-involved shooting that killed off-duty cop in Merced

New body cam video from Merced police officer who fired fatal shot

New video from an officer-involved shooting February 12, 2019, released by Merced Police Department includes body-camera footage from Officer Nate McKinnon who fired the fatal shot at Johnny Mathis, an off-duty officer. Mathis had fired on McKinnon.
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New video from an officer-involved shooting February 12, 2019, released by Merced Police Department includes body-camera footage from Officer Nate McKinnon who fired the fatal shot at Johnny Mathis, an off-duty officer. Mathis had fired on McKinnon.

New footage from an officer-involved shooting this year was recently released by the Merced Police Department, including the body-camera footage from the officer who fired the fatal shot.

In the footage from Feb. 12, Officer Nate McKinnon can be heard relaying information to emergency dispatchers after Johnny Mathis, an off-duty officer, fires a round into McKinnon’s patrol car.

McKinnon fired a single round that struck Mathis in the head, according to investigators. The deadly shooting was determined to be justified by the Merced County District Attorney’s Office.

McKinnon, a 43-year-old police officer, has worked in Merced since 2005.

County investigators released footage from deputies’ body-cameras on July 8, and Merced police provided footage to the Sun-Star on July 26.

Body-worn camera footage has been released in the incident of a Merced police officer killing an off-duty Dos Palos officer in February 2019. The Merced officer has been cleared of any wrongdoing,

Until July 1, California had no consistent policy regarding the release of body-camera recordings. The transparency effort was championed by Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, with Assembly Bill 748.

Police agencies commonly cite a “pending investigation” as the reason to withhold footage. Ting’s bill requires agencies to release the footage no later than 45 days after the discharge of an officer’s firearm or use-of-force that causes death or great bodily harm.

“Public access to body camera footage is necessary to boost confidence and rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” Ting said in June. “This law sets clear expectations for agencies — they can no longer withhold body camera video or audio from us.”

Officer-involved shooting

Several law enforcement officers responded on Feb. 12 to the 1800 block of Lopes Avenue in Merced, where officers had pursued Mathis, a 46-year-old off-duty Dos Palos officer.

A deputy spoke with Mathis in the 2100 block of Highway 140 about 8 p.m. that day, investigators said. He was standing outside of his car and showed signs of intoxication. He got into the car and sped away despite officers telling him to stop.

Footage from a dashboard camera shows the short pursuit of Mathis, who began ramming his car into the garage door of a home on Lopes Avenue. Smoke billows through the air as the car’s tires spin and engine revs.

The off-duty officer had worked with the Dos Palos Police Department since 2014. He was a Merced County sheriff’s deputy for about 14 years before that, according to Merced Sun-Star archives.

Mathis fired seven shots into the house, three into his car’s interior and another four out of the window, investigators said. Seven minutes passed between the initial suspicious vehicle report and the deadly shooting, according to the Merced County District Attorney’s Office. McKinnon was on the scene for less than two minutes.

Mathis had a complicated past having been decorated in 2009 by the Sheriff’s Office with the Medal of Valor and also investigated in 2010 for an on-duty allegation of domestic violence. He was also accused of police brutality multiple times from 2004 to 2006.

The fact Mathis opened fire on fellow officers was particularly infuriating to many in law enforcement.

Sheriff Vern Warnke said Tuesday he told his deputies they were not allowed to wear their uniforms to Mathis’ funeral.

“They were free to go to the funeral if they chose to, but because of the circumstances I asked that they not wear the department uniform,” he said. “He wasn’t an officer killed in the line of duty, he left our agency under a cloud and his actions — the minute he fired a weapon at a cop — he didn’t deserve any formal anything.”

Related stories from Merced Sun-Star

Reporter Thaddeus Miller has covered cities in the central San Joaquin Valley since 2010, writing about everything from breaking news to government and police accountability. A native of Fresno, he joined the Fresno Bee in 2019 after time in Merced and Los Banos.
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