Family of Teen Killed by Ceres Police Files Lawsuit

CERES -- Fifteen-year-old Spencer Mendez was shot and killed by Ceres Police Officer Ross Bays in August 2018.

The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department had claimed Mendez had a gun.

In a recently filed federal lawsuit against the City of Ceres and its police department, the teen’s family’s attorney Mark Merin argues the tragedy was senseless.

“Had it been reversed, had a citizen shot or killed an officer, that citizen would be arrested and the results would be published immediately,” Merin said.

At the time, a sheriff's department spokesman said Ceres police officers were responding to a report someone had waved a gun from inside a dark-colored Lexus at Ceres' Smyrna Park.

Moments later, investigators believe that same vehicle was involved in a hit-and-run.

When officers caught up to the driver outside of an orchard on a service road, investigators said the officers had no choice but to react.

“Immediately upon the vehicle stopping, one suspect jumped out of the vehicle with a handgun and the Ceres police officer fired,” Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Sergeant Tom Letras said at the time.

Officer Bays shot Mendez but the complaint paints a different picture, stating "other law enforcement officers at the scene reacted with anger to the unnecessary shooting."

Merin argues witnesses told a different story

“Exited the vehicle and ran into an orchard and was shot from behind by Ceres Police Officer Ross Bays,” Merin said.

The city’s attorney, Bruce Praet, tells FOX40 they filed a response on Monday, denying the allegations.

Mendez’s family now seeks compensation and a change in how the city polices.

“They tolerate, they condone this type of excessive force in violation of constitutional rights of citizens,” Merin said.

Merin also represents another man’s family who was shot dead by the same officer. He says his office is still waiting for documents from the city in regard to both cases.