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News / Clark County News

Unjust use of force or self-defense? Attorneys present opening arguments in trial of Vancouver police Officer Andrea Mendoza

Officer charged with fourth-degree assault after bodycam video recorded her threatening to use Taser on suspect's genitals

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: April 18, 2024, 6:16pm
4 Photos
Vancouver Police Officer Andrea Mendoza listens to opening statements in her trial for gross misdemeanor assault Thursday at the Clark County Courthouse. Mendoza is accused of assaulting a man she was arresting and threatening to use a Taser on his genitals.
Vancouver Police Officer Andrea Mendoza listens to opening statements in her trial for gross misdemeanor assault Thursday at the Clark County Courthouse. Mendoza is accused of assaulting a man she was arresting and threatening to use a Taser on his genitals. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A prosecutor told a Clark County District Court jury Thursday that Vancouver police Officer Andrea Mendoza assaulted a suspected shoplifter in May when she exposed his genitals “for no reason” and threatened to use her Taser there after he fought to avoid arrest.

Mendoza’s defense attorney told the jury her use of force was lawful. Her actions were in self-defense, he said, and in defense of a fellow officer after the suspect, Elijah Guffey-Prejean, had struck both during the struggle.

The opening statements in Mendoza’s trial came after a jury of four men and three women, including one alternate, was seated about 2 p.m.

Mendoza, 38, is charged with fourth-degree assault, which is a gross misdemeanor. Several members of the Vancouver Police Department were seated behind Mendoza in the courtroom’s gallery.

“I want to make this clear from the start: This is not the city of Vancouver versus the police department,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Lauren Boyd said. “This is the city of Vancouver versus Andrea Mendoza … and the actions she chose to take on May 21, 2023.”

Boyd said body-camera video of the incident shows Guffey-Prejean was complying when Mendoza pulled his pants down and exposed his genitals. The prosecutor said Mendoza held her Taser against Guffey-Prejean’s genitals for 24 seconds, and his genitals remained exposed for nearly two minutes, even after he was handcuffed. It wasn’t until Guffey-Prejean asked Mendoza twice to cover him up that she did so, Boyd said.

Defense attorney John Terry told jurors he’d let them decide for themselves, after watching the video, whether Guffey-Prejean was compliant. Terry noted Guffey-Prejean claimed to be done resisting, but then got up and tried to run again.

“This was more than simply resisting arrest,” Terry said. “Both officers had been assaulted.”

Before opening statements, Judge Kristen Parcher ruled on the admissibility of Vancouver Police Department policies Mendoza would’ve been trained on, including policies around use of force and Tasers.

The jury heard testimony from the loss prevention officer at the east Vancouver Walmart, who reported the shoplifting incident to law enforcement. He was on the phone with dispatch while Mendoza and the other officer tried to arrest Guffey-Prejean and described the struggle to dispatch as he was seeing it on store surveillance video.

He can be heard on the call telling dispatch the suspect was resisting and that the suspect was still fighting once an officer had a Taser on him.

The jury viewed the surveillance video and both officers’ body-camera videos.

The trial is scheduled to continue Friday morning with more city’s witnesses, including Guffey-Prejean.

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