Ross Bays, a 16-year police veteran, was identified as the Ceres officer who fatally shot a Hughson teen at the end of a high-speed chase from Ceres to rural Denair after reports of gun brandishing at Smyrna Park.
Bays shot 15-year-old Spencer Carmen Mendez on Saturday afternoon, Aug. 18 at the conclusion of a chase from Ceres to the rural Denair area after bailing from a car with a car in hand. It is not clear if Mendez fired the gun or pointed it at the officer, said Sheriff’s Department spokesman Tom Letras.
The incident started shortly after 4 p.m. when Ceres Police were dispatched to the skate park inside Smyrna Park in Ceres to check out a report of a male in a dark-colored Lexus sedan who had brandished a gun. As officers were responding to the park, another call was received by Ceres Police dispatchers about a black Lexus hitting a second car near Whitmore Avenue and Mitchell Road and fleeing. A witness followed the Lexus and provided real-time information to dispatchers as to its location. Officer Bays spotted the vehicle and attempted to stop it but the driver accelerated and a high-speed pursuit was initiated towards Hughson.
The chase ended on Sperry Road just north of Service Road where Mendez, armed with a handgun, immediately exited the vehicle. Bays, who was alone at the scene, fired at Mendez, striking him at least once.
Other officers quickly arrived on scene and assisted Bays in detaining four persons still inside the car. The four occupants were interviewed at the Sheriff’s Department. Two male juveniles and a female juvenile were released to their parent/guardian with no charges currently pending. A fourth occupant, Jose Robles, 20, of Hickman, was arrested on an unrelated misdemeanor warrant.
Paramedics were unsuccessful in saving Mendez. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Inside the car police located several stolen firearms.
Stanislaus Sheriff’s Department detectives and Stanislaus District Attorney Investigators were dispatched to the scene to investigate the shooting.
The elderly driver of the car hit by the Lexus in Ceres was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital.
In accordance with police policy, Bays was placed on paid administrative leave.
This was the second fatal shooting involving Bays since coming to Ceres. On Oct. 22 he and Sgt. Darren Venn were involved in fatally shooting of Nicholas Adam Pimentel, 27, of Modesto, at the end of a chase.
The multi-agency police investigation into the Pimentel shooting is still underway. Pimentel fled Ceres officers during a pursuit in south Modesto. He was shot as the pursuit ended with a PIT maneuver at Imperial Avenue and Ustick Road.
The preliminary investigation revealed that at approximately 1:08 a.m., a Ceres police officer was in pursuit of a Chevy pickup in the unincorporated area of Modesto. About two minutes later officers radioed that they had been involved in a shooting with the driver struck by officers' gunfire.
Pimentel had been drinking before the incident, his sister, Summer Pimentel, said at the time. Pimentel had a criminal history with a no contest plea to a misdemeanor DUI and obstructing or resisting an officer or emergency personnel in 2012.
As a matter of routine policy, both shootings have resulted in three separate and independent investigations. The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department is conducting an investigation while Ceres Police Department is handling an administrative investigation. The District Attorney's Office is conducting its own review as it does in all officer-involved shooting.
Shootings involving Ceres Police have not been common but have increased in the past two years. Ceres Police fatally shot a suspect in January 2016 when Albert Thompson, 28, reached for a hand torch while running from Ceres officers Justin Canatsy and Jesus Salinas at El Camino Avenue and Don Pedro Road. The shooting was ruled justified by the District Attorney’s office.