Police Search for Man who Assaulted His Two Stepchildren on the American River

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RANCHO CORDOVA -- Crews from multiple agencies spent Sunday searching up and down the American River in Rancho Cordova looking for a man who police say assaulted his own stepchildren on the water.

“Two of the kids were assaulted by their stepfather. One was hit in the head with a paddle and the other was thrown out of the raft into the river without a life jacket,” said Sgt. Elmer Marzan.

Park rangers told FOX40 both children were OK after the incident.

Sgt. Marzan said at one point the stepfather, now identified as 39-year-old Johnny Mercado, jumped in the river and displayed a knife, sparking fear in the area.

“Just enjoying the last bit of summer then all of a sudden a helicopter comes up, starts shouting on their speaker looking for some person,” said witness Chris Bernerdino.

Rafters floating down the American River spotted a helicopter overhead advising them to be on the lookout for a person of interest.

“Police officers and rangers were all along the pathway with their cars and lights on and the helicopter kept going around and around and around,” said Jennie Wallace.

Park rangers, Sacramento County deputies and Rancho Cordova police officers spent the day and night combing through the river trying to find the man. He was last seen floating down the river in the afternoon.

The stepfather is described as a bald Hispanic man with tattoos on his chest and arms.

Once he is apprehended, police say he will face charges for felony child endangerment, among other crimes.

They also report alcohol was a factor in the incident.

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