SALINAS — A convicted murderer in court for arraignment on six felony charges was shot and killed Thursday when he tried to take a bailiff's gun.
One officer was wounded in the scuffle.
Daniel Ray Mendoza, 37, of Salinas tried to snatch the bailiff's gun, said Grace Mitchell, who was in the courtroom at the time. Her boyfriend, Fred Murphy, who was appearing for extradition proceedings, was handcuffed to Mendoza. Murphy was not harmed.
"They were fighting over (the gun)," Mitchell told the Monterey Herald, adding that Mendoza "was kicking and jumping real high to get the gun."
The bailiff ordered the court clerk to call for help, and two uniformed sheriff's deputies responded, Mitchell said. Each grabbed one of Mendoza's arms, but "somehow he broke loose" and got one of the officer's guns, she said.
Mitchell said she heard five shots, adding, "I heard one officer say, 'I got hit.' "
Deputy Don Wallich, wounded in the hip, was in stable condition at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, a nursing supervisor said. The names of the other two officers involved in the incident were not released. It was not clear if Wallich was the courtroom bailiff or one of the officers who responded.
Mendoza, who was convicted in November, 1977, of murder, finished his parole in April, 1987.
He was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of attempted armed robbery, burglary with a knife, assault with a deadly weapon, attempted robbery with a knife, receipt of stolen property, carrying a concealed weapon and carrying a loaded weapon.
John Davison, head of the Monterey County Department of Corrections, said Mendoza had attempted suicide Wednesday by trying to hang himself with the belt from his prison jumpsuit. Mendoza denied the suicide attempt to officials, but told fellow inmates he was afraid of drawing a long prison term, Davison said.