PHOENIX – A photographer was shot nine times last month at Encanto Park in Phoenix after he objected to racial slurs directed at him by a group of people he had been photographing, according to Maricopa County court records.
The photographer, who is black and has not been identified by police, still is recovering from his wounds. Two 18-year-olds and a 17-year-old have been arrested in connection with the shooting.
Ricardo Sanchez Mendoza, 18, was arrested Sept. 17 in Phoenix for suspected involvement in the incident, according to court documents.
The other shooting suspects, 18-year-old Angel Ortega Romero and a 17-year-old juvenile, were arrested eight days later, the court documents say.
All are facing charges in connection with the Sept. 12 shooting, which authorities say may have had gang ties, according to the court records.
Police say the 33-year-old photographer was taking landscape photos of a lake at the park when he was approached about 10 p.m. by the three teens, according to court documents. They asked the man to take their photo and, after a short conversation, the photographer agreed to do it for free, the court documents say.
One photo was taken of the 17-year-old boy and then two more photos were taken of all three of the teens, who were making apparent gang hand signs, according to the court documents, which include a probable cause statement from police submitted after the arrests.
As the photographer was taking pictures, he asked the teens to stop using a racial slur directed at blacks, which caused the teens to start arguing with him, records say.
According to the probable cause statement, Romero went behind the photographer and shot him multiple times, the court documents say. The 17-year-old continued shooting the photographer after he fell to the ground, the court documents add.
The photographer suffered nine gunshot wounds, according to court documents.
Police say the photographer was also found to be in possession of a handgun at the time he was shot but that the gun did not have a round in the chamber, according to court documents. He also denied pulling the weapon out until after he was shot, the court documents add.
The three teens fled the scene and left the victim’s camera – which had been used to take their pictures – and cellphones behind, the court documents say.
The photographer also recorded the incident on a Facebook Live video, which was later watched by detectives to verify his story, the documents add.
A Phoenix Police Department detective with knowledge of gangs identified Mendoza from the photographs taken Sept. 12, according to court documents.
Mendoza was indicted Sept. 24 on suspicion of one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of assisting a street gang and one count of possession of marijuana, according to court documents. He had a small amount of marijuana at the time of his arrest, police said.
Police say Mendoza admitted his involvement in the incident and to being a member of a gang, according to court documents. He denied shooting the photographer or having a gun during the incident and said he didn’t know who shot the man.
Mendoza also told police that the photographer took his gun out first, according to court documents. Mendoza entered a not guilty plea on Oct. 1, court documents say. He is being held on a $500,000 bond.
Romero was arrested Sept. 25. A stolen .45 caliber handgun, bullets and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office handcuffs were found in his possession, according to court documents. He was prohibited from carrying firearms due to multiple juvenile convictions in Maricopa County, including burglary, vehicle theft and burglary with a firearm, the court documents add.
He denied any involvement in the shooting and denied knowing the other suspects despite being shown the photos taken on Sept. 12, according to court documents. He was indicted Oct. 3 on one count of aggravated assault, one count of assisting a criminal street gang, two counts of misconduct involving weapons and one count of resisting arrest, according to court documents.
Romero is being held on a $500,000 bond as well.
An investigator at the county’s Adobe Mountain juvenile facility identified the 17-year-old boy based on documentation that showed he was a member of a gang while housed at the juvenile facility, according to court documents.
The 17-year-old faces charges in juvenile court on suspicion of one count of aggravated assault, one count of assisting a criminal street gang and two counts of misconduct involving weapons, according to court documents.
Police say the teen attempted to flee a home and tossed a handgun when police came to make an arrest. The 17-year-old was prohibited from carrying firearms due to multiple felony juvenile convictions in Maricopa County, including possession of drug paraphernalia. He was taken into custody without further incident.
The 17-year-old was being held on a $250,000 bond.
Follow Chelsea Curtis on Twitter @curtis_chels.
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