The Orange County Sheriff's Department deputy who last month shot a 20-year-old Rancho Santa Margarita resident after a high-speed motorcycle pursuit has been identified as Manuel Cruz.
Cruz, a 10-year veteran of the OCSD assigned to traffic detail, shot Dennis Mitchell Mueller on March 10 after Mueller sped away from him in his motorcycle, according to the Sheriff's Department.
Cruz, who was also riding a motorcycle, had contact with Mueller in the past and went to the neighborhood where he lived. There, according to a department spokesman, Cruz ordered Mueller not to move, but the suspect instead reached inside his jacket toward his waistband.
Cruz fired his weapon, striking Mueller at least once in the lower abdomen. Witnesses said they heard several gunshots. Mueller was not armed.
Mueller was charged Tuesday with two misdemeanor traffic violations and an infraction. He was cited for driving with a suspended/revoked license, reckless driving with injuries, and excess speed/lane use.
The Sheriff's Department declined to release Cruz's background information, employment history or photo, saying they are part of his personnel records and therefore exempt from public disclosure. The department acknowledged that he was hired Nov. 2, 2001, and that he had returned to work since the shooting.
Despite a Public Records Act request by Patch to the Orange County District Attorney's office, authorities wouldn't say how many times Mueller was shot, the extent of his injuries, his condition, or the manner or sequence in which Cruz fired his weapon pending the investigation of the incident by the district attorney.
The release of the officer's name took 24 days, about 10 days longer than the department took to acknowledge that Deputy Darren Sandberg was the officer who shot and killed Marine Sgt. Manuel Loggins on Feb. 7 in San Clemente.
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, near Alma Aldea, when Cruz reportedly observed Mueller riding his Suzuki without a license plate and speeding. The deputy lost sight of Mueller, who was known through previous contact with Cruz. The officer went to Mueller's residence on Meadow Park Lane in Robinson Ranch. It's there that the shooting took place, all in the span of about a minute, at 12:57 p.m.
Mueller has had no fewer than 15 run-ins with the law, beginning when he was 13 and cited for purchasing or being in possession of tobacco/paraphernalia.
The most serious offense was buying or receiving a stolen vehicle on Aug. 25, for which he pleaded guilty. He served 30 days in jail and was placed on three years' probation.
Mueller was also charged with being under the influence of a controlled substance on June 9, 2011, for which he has yet to be judged in court.
Many of Mueller's contacts with law enforcement came from his driving too fast for the conditions, which inevitably led to the discovery that he failed to have documentation with him such as registration and insurance.
Over the past year, since March 7, 2011, Mueller was cited eight times—including the most recent—by three agencies, the Orange County Sheriff's Department, California Highway Patrol and Newport Beach Police Department.
Last December, he was charged with reckless driving, driving with a suspended license, and going faster than 100 mph. He was to appear in court on those charges April 12.