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Shooting Victim Defied Deputy's Order, Reached Into Jacket, Officials Say

Dennis Mueller, 20, who has a long string of run-ins with the law, was shot in the abdomen.

The man shot by an Orange County sheriff's deputy Saturday in Rancho Santa Margarita ignored the officer's warning and instead reached inside his jacket, according to a police spokesman.

Dennis Mitchell Mueller, 20, identified as the subject of the as-yet unnamed officer's gunshots, remains in Mission Hospital in stable condition, according to Sgt. Jason Park, spokesman for the Orange County Sherff's Department.

Mueller suffered at least one wound to the lower abdomen, according to the police report, although authorities have not yet publicly acknowledged the extent of Mueller's injuries.

"We determed that the officer gave commands for the subject to not move," Park said Monday. "At that point, the subject advanced toward the deputy and reached inside his jacket toward his waistband or an inside pocket, and the officer feared he was reaching for a weapon."

According to Park, that version of the story has been corroborated.

Park said that no weapon of Mueller's has been found, nor is there the expectation that one will emerge in the investigation, which is being conducted by the Orange County District Attorney's office.

The police report indicated that Mueller first turned away from the deputy before reaching inside his jacket; the officer had his gun drawn at the time.

, near Alma Aldea when the motorcycle officer observed Mueller riding his Suzuki without a license plate and traveling at a high rate of speed. The officer lost sight of Mueller, who was known through previous contact with the officer. 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.

A woman at Mueller's residence declined to talk to Patch.

Lt. Brian Schmutz, chief of police services in Rancho Santa Margarita, said he's aware of the sensitivity involving police officers using their weapons.

"We understand when there's an officer involved shooting, it generates a lot of questions in the community," he said. "We just ask for patience and understanding as the investigation unfolds."

Members of the community were familiar with Mueller, and said that he often drove too fast in the neighborhood.

Though just a young man, Mueller has already had a lifetime worth of run-ins with the law—no fewer than 15. His first came at age 13 when he was cited for purchasing or being in possession of tobacco/paraphernalia.

The most serious 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. 

In the past year, since March 7, 2011, Mueller was cited seven times by three agencies, the Orange County Sheriff's Department, California Highway Patrol and the 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.

From March 7 to April 19, he was cited four times—three for going too fast, and another for having inadequate tire tread and a faulty brake light. Two months later, he was again cited for driving too fast for the conditions.

John B. Greet March 14, 2012 at 05:46 PM
3. I see no challenge with publishing official documents such as police/sheriff use-of-force policies and department manuals on public-access databases. If all of a police or sheriff department's manual is determined to be public access, then a PRA request should not be required to access and/or review it. If some of a department's manual is considered law enforcement sensitive (LES), For Official Use Only (FOUO) or otherwise legally restricted, then those portions of the manual that are *not* restricted should be readily accessible to and reviewable by the public without a PRA request. Part of the challenge with this may be that police/sheriff department manuals are under constant revision and update as relevant laws, court cases, and policy direction from city/county management changes. It may be difficult to post all or part of such a department manual on a public access website and still ensure that it is completely current and accurate. At least through the PRA request, the public can be assured that it is receiving the most current version of a given document that may be available. Thanks for the dialog!
Shawn Gordon March 14, 2012 at 06:03 PM
You know John, in fullerton with Kelly Thomas, the cops completely ignored it until a citizen posted on their web site a month later and it got pushed on to KFI and awareness among the public got larger and larger. The cops were totally sweeping it under the rug, despite the fact that the officer that murdered Kelly had his camera live and recording during the incident, which you'd think if someone died as a result of an interaction with LEO, the first thing they'd review is his video record, so they KNEW what happened and did nothing until word got out and the outrage got so big they couldn't ignore it any more. this is standard operating procedure for law enforcement, you never ever hear about them investigating this stuff on their own until the public starts screaming.
John B. Greet March 14, 2012 at 07:25 PM
smga: I don't know that it is accurate to claim that FPD completely ignored the death of Kelly Thomas or that officials there attempted to sweep anything under the rug. I would agree that the former Chief of Police handled the entire episode badly (hence the "former") and that some on the Council did as well which is why I believe a recall effort is currently underway against at least some of them. Fortunately, the Council did decide to hire the LA County Office of Independent Review (OIR) to conduct its own investigation separate from both FPD and the LA D.A's Office. In a preliminary report, issued 2/21/12, the OIR found that city leaders did not falsify or cover up facts to protect the police. The OIR did find, however, that city officials released inaccurate information after the death and failed to take steps to issue corrections. Recall that Thomas did not actually die until five days after the beating. During that time I do not doubt that FPD was conducting an obligatory, internal use of force review while they waited to learn whether Thomas was going to survive his injuries. As soon as Thomas was pronounced dead under these circumstances, however, I believe hospital staff was mandated to notify both the Coroner (which, in L.A. County, is an office completely separate from the Sheriff) as well as the D.A's office. I don't think Fullerton had any ability to coneal Thomas' tragic death even had they truly wanted to.
Chris McLaughlin March 14, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Fullerton is in Orange County. Did LA County really do all the investigating in the Kelly Thomas case??
John B. Greet March 14, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Chris, of course you're right and I misspoke. I was thinking of a different recent high-profile killing by police...in Long Beach. My apologies.
Chris McLaughlin March 15, 2012 at 12:06 AM
I know, I know, it's hard to keep all of the recent Police shootings of unarmed victims straight...
Chris McLaughlin March 15, 2012 at 06:56 AM
Who was it that said this whole incident happened in about a minute, and that's why there was no time to call for backup, and to try to calmly resolve this situation without deadly force?? I just read the Police Blotter on this, and the initial call was at 12:42, and at 12:57, it's says 'shots fired and subject down'. That's more like 15 minutes. What's the truth?? Did the officer take 14 minutes to look for the suspect and get to his house, or was there time to get more Police on the scene before taking him down? Also, does anyone know how to read the Police Blotter well enough to see which entry means: "I lost the guy on the bike with no plates, but I know who he is and his arrest history and where he lives, so I'm going to follow him home and confront him there with my gun drawn so I can shoot him if I have to..."
John B. Greet March 15, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Every such tragic event is different, Chris. Different people and departments involved, different circumstances, different locations and times. I realize that to some it may seem difficult to separate them but if we are going to be fair and think critically, we (including I) absolutely must try harder to do so. The Zerby shooting in Long Beach, while tragic, has thus far been deemed justifiable. The wrongful death suit proceeds, of course, and that judge or jury may well find differently. The alleged murder of Kelly Thomas in Fullerton was equally tragic, but two of those officers have now been held to answer for felony crimes related to their actions and, I think, rightly so. In the case of the Mueller shooting, the concurrent investigations proceed, with additional facts no doubt coming to light daily. I think we need to reserve judgment until the investigations conclude and we can consider as many actual facts as possible.
John B. Greet March 15, 2012 at 02:56 PM
The OCSD blotter info is really hard to read, as condensed and printed in reverse-time order as it is. I'm not sure where the data comes from or what a lot of the numbers mean but I don't think it is by any means complete. The investigators are sure to be reviewing recordings of all of the radio traffic and comparing those with text entered into what is commonly referred to as a "call history" created by the dispatchers. There is apparently at least one witness because OCSD has said that the report of Mueller's actions just before the shooting has been corroborated. Lot's of unanswered questions so far...lots of investigating still in progress. If the deputy somehow violated policy, procedure, or law, I hope this can be proven and, if it is, that he will be appropriately punished. I don't think it is constructive, however, to make assumptions about what the deputy may have been thinking as the call progressed.
john doe March 18, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Chris, you are an idiot and are an arm chair quaterback. We the (police) have to follow the constitution and the applicable laws of the state, fed, our departments. When an individual fails to stop to the red lights and sirens, thats red flag one. When the suspect fails to stop moving and obey our commands, thats red flag #2. When a suspect reaches into his/her pockets after disobeying our verbal commands, thats red flag number three. Especially when a officer points his/ her gun at the suspect. As a veteren of over 13 years, I would believe he was reaching for a gun. The law states if an officer with the same amount of training and experience would have done the same, then the officer was acting reasonable. Chris, have you ever been to a law enforcement funeral? I have. Cops get killed every day for not re-acting to a threat. We are 3 seconds behind a criminals mind. That means when someone is about to do us harm, we have to recognise the threat, and react to it. That takes a total of about three seconds according to the numerous doctors and professionals in the field. Based on what I read, the cop was totally justified in using deadly force. Could have shot better though. Everyone wants to second guess cops, but we have an obligation to go home to our families alive and well every night. CHris, you are just mad because you couldn't become a cop, its okay. LEt it go....
Chris McLaughlin March 19, 2012 at 06:05 AM
Officer Doe, The only time I have ever entertained thoughts about being a cop was to clean up the Police force. My DD-214 lists an Honorable Discharge, an RE-R1 re-enlistment code, two Good Conduct Awards, the Expert Pistol Marksmanship Award, and I've run four full marathons, so I'm sure I wouldn't have had any problems being accepted to the Police Academy, if that's what I wanted to do. I noticed you just joined Patch today. (It's too bad this forum doesn't have spellcheck, huh??) Do you even live around here, or are you just some outsider who was tipped off about this article and decided to throw in your two cents in a knee-jerk defense of the Police?? You sound like some jackwagon from Arizona that thinks I'm going to be intimidated by the fact that you've been a cop for 13 years and have determined that this incident is totally justified. No, I have never been to a Police Funeral, and don't want to go to one. I don't want there to be any. Have there been any in RSM?? What do you mean by the Officer could have shot better?? Does that mean taking less shots to do the same damage, or that he should have aimed better for the center of mass/chest, and killed the suspect?? Is the expensive lawsuit our city is already probably going to face not enough for you law and order fanatics?? One last thing, do you think you speak for all RSM Police Services Officers?? Lt. Schmutz, does this cop who wishes to remain anonymous speak for you??
Mission Viejo Mom March 21, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Chris, Why don't you take a moment and update your Patch profile which states: "I can be opinionated, but I'm not into bitter arguments and name-calling." Not only does your knee jerk while you are sitting in your armchair or perhaps your safe little tech support cubicle, but your tongue seems to have a mind of it’s own as well. Oh, and it will be a hoot to see what kind of “I’m not a name-caller” comment that slithers off your tongue as a response. Given the that fact that I am female, you probably won't be able to resist!
Shawn Gordon March 21, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Chris has been doing very good work researching this topic, why are you being such an evil troll MV Mom?
Chris McLaughlin March 21, 2012 at 08:10 PM
MV Mom, I'm not really sure what you meant by your last sentence. Are you expecting me to call you names because you're a woman, or just that I'm going to respond to you?? Anyway, I guess I did call Officer Doe a 'jackwagon', but that was after he called me an idiot and an arm-chair quarterback, so that's not going overboard or anything. Frankly I wonder why Martin allows such narrow personal attacks to persist on these forums. I thought that was supposed to be against the Terms of Use. Yes, I really don't like getting into bitter arguments, mostly because I don't like wasting my time trying to reason with unreasonable people. Have you considered updating your profile to include your real name and a picture of yourself? Do you prefer to stay safe behind a pseudonym with no picture?? I guess that's your right, but that truly is the pot calling the kettle black, if you're going to accuse me of hiding in my arm-chair or cubicle. I'm certainly not changing the last part of my profile, where I say I'm not shy about speaking out for what I think is right. See you at the next City Council meeting!!
Kim Somers March 24, 2012 at 01:07 PM
MV Mom, Are you the same MV Mom that likes to post about Capo and are a big supporter of Tony Beall? http://capistranoinsider.typepad.com/beyond_the_blackboard/2011/10/fleming-sues-capistrano-unified-former-attorney.html Are you the Mayors wife Jennifer Beall? This sure sounds like you from past posts. You should be thanking Chris for his concern and search for the truth for our city.
Martin Henderson (Editor) March 24, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Let's not go down this road. Kim (and everyone else), don't call people out by name because there's a chance you'd be wrong -- and in this case, you are: Mission Viejo Mom is not Jennifer Beall. And Mission Viejo Mom, don't be baiting other readers; it's childish, especially when you're trying to bait someone who is largely respectful with well-thought out ideas such as Chris (who is also using his real name). You lose credibility and style points. Please keep the dialogue civil, smart and insightful. Don't try to turn this discussion into a CUSD circus. Please keep the dialogue civil, smart and insightful. I know you can do it, even when you disagree.
April Josephson March 25, 2012 at 07:09 AM
Martin, thank you for addressing the random off-topic post by this new-to-Patch poster. Those of us that read and post on Patch regularly know that this is the same person that has done this many times before under a number of other names. Their continuous posts under new names with various false premises will never have an impact, other than to solidify public sentiment in favor of the opposite of whatever they espouse. Providing a link to another publication lends no credibility to their statements whatsoever. It does, however, provide us with a strong pattern to confirm their M.O. There is no doubt in my mind that they will continue to appear until after the November election. Other than name calling, let them continue to throw spaghetti against the wall. None of it will ever stick. All they are doing is creating a big mess that they will be stuck cleaning up.
Shawn Gordon March 27, 2012 at 04:30 PM
So we still don't know who the shooter was and if he is still on the job? Weeks have now gone by. Are they just hoping we stop thinking about it?
Michael Brown March 28, 2012 at 04:08 AM
I agree with smga3000. Can we get a name? Unlike the reactionaries posting to this article, we all don't yearn to live in a police-state, where cops can gun people down, lie on the paperwork, and wait out us poor saps who are trying to find out what's going on.
Chris McLaughlin March 28, 2012 at 06:56 AM
RSM City Council meeting is tomorrow at 7 p.m. There's nothing in the Open Session scheduled about this incident, but maybe they'll make an un-agendized statement about it again like they did last meeting, and they are to discuss a potential lawsuit in Closed Session, so that's probably about this. I'm going to try to make it on time this week and ask them who shot Dennis Mitchell, how many shots the officer fired, and how many weeks do they expect it to take to figure out if a decision that only took seconds to make was justified.
vince March 28, 2012 at 03:20 PM
They will continue to hide behind " OIS are investigated by the DA's office and we cannot comment to the specifics" this time gives them plenty of wiggle room. Trust me, they are going over and over the incident behind closed doors and are formulating their best strategy, to justify the shooting. I am interested in the percentage of OIS that are found to be unjustified? Even after, the so called DA's investigation? Having the DA investigate the PD is Kinda like having your own Dad call balls and strikes for you, when your up to bat. The deck is slightly stacked !
John B. Greet March 28, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Vince, if the people have no confidence in their District Attorney to conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation in these matters, they have a right and, I would say, a responsibility, to remove that person from office, through the legal process of recall, and replace him with someone in whom they have more confidence. Absent that, the people also have a right to request that the State's Attorney General step in and investigate completely independently from the District Attorney.
MrFilmThePolice March 28, 2012 at 10:54 PM
http://www.videomaker.com/community/videonews/2011/08/11175-first-amendment-rights-new-ruling-on-recording-police/ Your First Amendment Rights – New rulings states you can’t get arrested for videotaping police, politicians, and other government officials
MrFilmThePolice March 28, 2012 at 11:23 PM
http://www.copblock.org/about/
MrFilmThePolice March 28, 2012 at 11:24 PM
http://www.injusticeeverywhere.com/ - The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project
vince March 28, 2012 at 11:52 PM
@ JB I agree with you and your points are taken. I wish the world really worked that way, where good people made good decisions based on their own moral fiber and the public had all the confidence in the world in them. However, these Deputy DA's reviewing these OIS are always under some pressure to make wise decisions. (Which is very different, from reviewing the incident and making their own decision.) They are far more likely to look at a situation through the eye's of the LEO. In these cases the formula seems to always be the same, the general public doesn't know how these cases play out. But educated people that pay attention to detail, will clearly see a pattern and practice regarding OIS. That's all I'm saying, I've seen it before and unfortunately I'm sure we'll see it again and should I ever decide to expend the effort and energy of recalling someone in office, it would have to be my very own HOA president first !
Chris McLaughlin March 29, 2012 at 05:22 AM
Well, I asked my questions, and got some answers, and some other info. Basically the City Council doesn't know any further details of the incident or investigation, and our local Police doesn't know much, either, because the DA won't tell anyone else anything. So it looks like the DA really is the hold-up in any information flowing out about this case, and I don't know how one would put pressure on them. I guess going to the County Board of Supervisors meeting and complaining might put it on their radar. Specifically, they wouldn't identify the Officer, and the City Council confirmed that they don't know who it is, and the Chief of Police said that's about the only thing he knew about the investigation, but of course is not allowed to disclose that info. Neither knew how many shots were fired, and said that the number of hits/wounds in the suspect wasn't officially released yet, either, so that shouldn't be thought of as established fact at this point. As far as the expected timeframe for the investigation, no one could really promise anything, so that's kind of disappointing, but I do have a little more assurance that they are taking this seriously and know that people are concerned. I think the County Board of Supes meet every other Tuesday in Santa Ana...
Shawn Gordon March 29, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Thanks for the update chris, I was going to go to the meeting and then totally forgot. My immediate concern with this whole thing is we don't know if this officer is still on duty or not, and in my opinion having him on duty would be dangerous for one of two reasons. Either he's a total idiot and is dangerous, or he is traumatized and can't do his job properly. Anything else and he is a sociopath. At a minimum our local sheriff needs to confirm if this deputy is off duty or not. I have a friend that use to be an assistant DA, maybe he can get some info, I'll ask.
vince March 29, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Chris, I'm quoting my earlier posts here "They will continue to hide behind, "OIS are investigated by the DA's office and we cannot comment to the specifics, at this this time". Also, " In these cases the formula seems to always be the same, the general public doesn't know how these cases play out. But educated people that pay attention to detail, will clearly see a pattern and practice regarding OIS." The powers that be, will continue to leak any and all negative info. regarding the victim while shielding all pertinent info. i.e; LOE's name, total shots fired,etc.They will release a couple of statements like, the officer feared for his life. They want you to see he was afraid and only human, which is ironic because they NEVER say he was human and he made a MISTAKE ! Also, they will always release a statement saying something like, he reached for something or I couldn't see his hands, these terms are used to "JUSTIFY" an OIS. Finally, a benefit to drag their feet regarding releasing info.They take these cases to the Grand Jury quickly, without ANY INPUT whatsoever from the victims side. Let me say that again, they will ask a Grand Jury to make a decision regarding the shooting and whether or not the officer was criminally culpable, based ONLY on the LOE's version of what happened along with the DA's report, with absolutely NO INPUT from anyone else ! People it's time to wake up, there's way to much power behind closed doors. Transparency is what we need. AT ALL LEVELS !
Shawn Gordon March 30, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I just confirmed the deputy is still on duty or returned to duty, but he is on duty and we still don't know who it is. How can he be on duty if the investigation is ongoing? If the investigation is done, why don't we have the results? This situation is just outrageous.

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