The killer was the second shot.
It hit the bone and cartilage of the sternum. That flattened the round a little, increasing its diameter and widening the wound channel it punched through the left ventricle chamber of Mendez's heart. The bullet left the heart, went into the left lung and exited Mendez's back.
In its passage, the slug stretched and displaced for milliseconds the heart muscles, valves and chambers, forming what trauma surgeons know as the "temporary cavity." It created a temporary space the size of a baseball in Mendez's heart.
But the heart continued to pump.
Now it is squirting blood from the bullet holes in the heart wall, filling the pericardium and pouring into the chest cavity itself. At a rate of about five quarts a minute.
But there is no pressure to carry blood through the aorta and a network of arteries to Mendez's brain. Not even to the blood vessels near the gunshot wounds in his right arm and left knee. So there is no bleeding there.
No blood, no oxygen. No oxygen, no working body cells. Then veins collapse. Electricity and neuromuscular activities stop.
Barely a minute after the first shot, the only movement connected to Mendez is a puddle of blood creeping from two exit wounds in his back.
It shines like maroon glue on the store floor.
As life finally leaves Juan Mendez.
\o7 Jim Monaghan is full of holes. He can close his eyes, point to arms, legs and chest, and finger\f7 -\o7 count 11 wounds from bullets and shrapnel. A former Green Beret captain and veteran of five combat tours of Vietnam, Monaghan, 51, now a technical consultant and scriptwriter to movie studios, has survived four gunshot wounds.
The worst, he says, was in 1966.
A Viet Cong soldier shot him in the left shoulder with an AK-47 assault rifle.
"Then I killed him," Monaghan says. "But his shot hit my M-16, blew the upper hand guard apart and pieces of the weapon were flying everywhere. One piece killed the man standing next to me, ripped his whole face off, and the bullet ricocheted and went into my shoulder.
"It smashed the clavicle, the thing that holds the muscle leads from the tendon and the biceps muscle . . . and as a result, the muscles, the biceps muscle and then the left chest muscle, the one that guards the heart, began falling down.
"And it burns. That's the first thing that happens to you. It's just like a red hot poker or an ice pick burning into you. Then it knocks you down. It is like somebody swinging at you with a baseball bat. As hard as they can.
"But the burning. I remember thinking that if I had time to pour a canteen of water on it, everything would be OK. But it didn't quite work out that way. I went for about 10 more minutes and then I just passed out from loss of blood and pain.
"I was out (in the hospital or convalescing) for eight months. And it still hurts. It's a private pain, but it ain't easy. There are times when I'm in bed and dreaming, and I'll begin jumping and I can feel those bullets hitting. If I move my arm the wrong way, that sudden, searing pain feels like the round is still entering, still moving in.
\f7 "I've been down to the (Long Beach) Naval hospital several times and up to the Presidio \o7 (Letterman Army Hospital), and they keep telling me that there will have to be operations done on the thing again. I'm postponing it. I'll take Advil or aspirins or, once in a while if it really hurts, I'll take some codeine.
"But I can just feel that fire in there. All the time."\f7
At 5:34 p.m., four minutes after death, official hands are attending Juan Mendez. A uniformed officer from LAPD's Rampart Division, who was patroling nearby and made it to the store while gunpowder smells are still hanging, touches his fingertips to Mendez's neck. No pulse.
The six-gun--a souvenir of a supposedly wilder West--is recovered and taken to the trunk of a police car. "Who did he think he was going against?" an officer mutters. "Clint Eastwood?"
Fire Department paramedics from Engine Co. 13 deliver their boxes and monitors. Some attend guard Garcia and his knee. Others stare down at Mendez.
Scissors cut away his brown sweater.
The red-black bullet holes are obvious.
Especially one in the center of Mendez's chest.
"Just the right place," says paramedic George Balleweg. "Great shooting."
Three electrodes from a Lifepak 5 monitor are attached to Mendez's trunk. It is probably a formality. A six-inch strip of tape hisses from the machine and the line is quite straight. There is no electrical activity in the body.
Balleweg crumples the tape and tosses it.
Police officers--lieutenants and sergeants and street cops from this volatile area of town--peer at Mendez before a sheet is pulled over his body and face.
"Anybody recognize this guy? . . . looks like a rock smoker, one of those dirt bags from down the street . . . nobody I know . . . probably an illegal . . . you want to look, Jim?"