State Attorney’s Office find three officer-involved shootings justified

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Three officer-involved shootings in 2020, one involving a 17-year-old, have all been ruled as justifiable by the State Attorney’s Office in the past few weeks.

Two of the shootings were fatal.

State Attorney Melissa Nelson’s letters on the three shootings state that after a review of each shooting, all were “justified under Florida law.” The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has yet to conduct their own administrative review, which is currently listed as pending in all three cases.

In 2020, there were 16 officer-involved shootings, according to JSO’s transparency website. Ten have been deemed justified by the State Attorney’s Office. Three are still pending review, and three were not reviewed by the State Attorney’s Office as the shootings were not fatal.

Dorgel Mesa

On February 27, 2020, police responded to a home on Caribbean Court in Arlington to reports of a man breaking into his ex-wife’s home.

According to the State Attorney’s report, 39-year-old Dorgel Mesa, drunk and armed with a gun, called his ex-wife on FaceTime, put the gun to his head, and threatened suicide. Officers spent hours negotiating with Mesa to come out of the house peacefully, but he refused. At some point, he fired the gun once while in the house. Mesa then allegedly threatened that he had six rounds left in his gun - one for himself and five for anyone who entered the house.

The Sheriff’s Office said that at some point, Mesa walked out of the home and was acting erratically -- waving the gun around -- and then ran back inside the home. The report then states that Mesa went to the back yard and put the gun to his head. He then pointed the gun at a SWAT member, Detective Michael Clark, who was on the roof of a neighbor’s house. Detective Clark fired one shot and Mesa died at the scene.

Clark was a 12-year-veteran with JSO at the time of the shooting. This was the detective’s first officer-involved shooting, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

An autopsy showed that Mesa had a blood alcohol content of .215 - almost three times the legal limit.

The State Attorney’s report concluded that given Mesa’s aggressive actions leading up to the shooting and his specific act of pointing the gun directly at Clark, there were grounds for Clark to reasonably believe that Mesa posed a threat of death or serious physical harm to himself or other officers.

Axel Perez

On July 4, 2020, JFRD responded to a 911 call requesting help for an unresponsive person. The person ended up being 17-year-old Axel Perez. By the time firefighters arrived, Perez had regained consciousness. Neighbors told firefighters that he was ”acting crazy and running around.” Perez then started to chase firefighters with a machete. Firefighters told police that they had to jump over a large fence and run into the woods, where they remained until after the shooting. JFRD then called JSO for assistance.

Officer Robert Gutcher arrived first and a neighbor told him that Perez was in the neighbor’s home. Outside of the home was a rifle/shotgun. The State Attorney’s Office report states that when the officer approached the front door of the house, he saw Perez with the machete. The Officer gave several commands for Perez to drop the machete and to come outside. He ignored the commands and walked to a bedroom.

The report then states that Perez suddenly opened the bedroom door, looked at the Officer and charged at him. The report states that the Officer yelled for Perez to drop the machete, but Perez refused. Believing to be in danger, Gutcher fired multiple rounds, killing Perez.

An autopsy showed that Perez was shot three times, and had a blood alcohol content of 2.61 - over three times the legal limit.

Gutcher has been with JSO since May 13, 2019 and this was his first officer-involved shooting.

Darrell Paige Jr.

On July 26, 2020, JSO officers tried to pull a vehicle over in the area of Powers Ave. and University Blvd. for a red light violation. Officers say the vehicle drove off very fast and a chase started. Police used “stop sticks” near I-295 and San Jose Blvd. which forced the vehicle to stop. Officers then stated that the driver, 21-year-old Darrell Paige Jr., got out and ran from the scene.

The State Attorney’s report states that Officer M.L. Kampfe was close behind Paige giving loud verbal commands for him to stop. Paige refused to comply with Kampfe’s commands. In an effort to deescalate the situation, Kampfe attempted to use a taser on Paige. The Taser was not effective as Paige broke free from the probes by twisting his body. As he twisted his body, Kampfe observed a dark colored object in Paige’s right hand. Paige then kept running down a dark alley behind a shopping mall and then turned into a dark wooded area.

The report states that Kampfe drew his service weapon and caught up to Paige who stopped several feet into the trees and brush. Kampfe again gave loud verbal commands for Paige to show his hands, but Paige did not comply. Paige then turned his upper body towards Officer Kampfe while still holding the dark object in his right hand. Believing the dark object in Paige’s hand was a gun and fearing for his life, Officer Kampfe fired one shot. Kampfe then activated a light attached to his service gun and at that point, he identified the dark object in Paige’s hand as a cell phone and did not fire additional shots.

Kampfe’s body-camera was not activated during the high speed pursuit or during the on-foot chase. However other officers said they heard Kampfe yell “hands”, “show me your hands”, and “stop! get on the ground”.

The State Attorney’s Office report concluded that given Kampfe’s continued commands of Paige to show his hands, the use of the taser first, believing Paige had a gun, and not shooting again once the officer saw the object being a phone, the shooting was justified.

Kampfe has been with JSO since August 2018 and this was his first officer-involved shooting.

Paige was charged with Aggravated Fleeing and Attempting to Elude a Law Enforcement Officer. He plead guilty and was sentenced to 13 months in prison.

Hannah Lee

Hannah Lee is a General Assignment Reporter for 104.5 WOKV.