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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.

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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