Sometime after 3 a.m. on February 5, at the Flats at Five Mile Creek apartments, a tow truck driver left his truck idling and walked away. He was looking for parking violations, police said. When the driver returned to his truck, a 27-year-old probation officer named Lance Lemons was sitting in the cab, driving the man's tow truck in reverse. Lemons' family says that Lemons was probably blocked in and just trying move the tow truck out of the way; the police suggested that Lemons was stealing the tow truck, or at least giving the wrecker driver a reason to suspect he was. The tow employee fired one shot, killing Lemons, who was unarmed.
Shortly afterward, police identified Lemons to the public but not his killer, because, police said, he wasn't yet being charged with a crime. The police were investigating "whether the [tow truck] employee has a defense to the prosecution because he was protecting his property, or theft, during night time." Under a defense called the Castle Doctrine, you're sort of allowed to kill people here if they steal your property at night. And that was reason enough for police to protect the shooter's identity. But a full police report we recently got from the Dallas Police Department reveals the shooter's name.
Mario Mercado is a United Tows driver who has been on this blog before. In September 2014, Mercado and another United Tows driver wrongly accused a man named Darrol Alexander of shooting at them at the same apartment complex, a case we wrote about in February.
Mercado answered the door to his home early Thursday evening but declined to give an interview. "I saw the last report where you were talking all kinds of crap about me," he said, referencing the story that details his poor driving record and the previous shooting case.
On September 30, 2014, Darrol Alexander was visiting a friend at the Flats at Five Mile Creek apartments at around 3 in the morning to borrow boots, his mother says. As Alexander walked through the parking lot to catch his bus to work, he heard gunshots. The tow truck drivers at the parking lot that night -- Mercado and another United Tows driver named Alan Candalario -- blamed Alexander. "I'm going to get you motherfucker," his mother says one of the drivers told him as they drove past. The police arrested Alexander at the word of the tow truck drivers. But a gunshot powder test conducted on Alexander by the DPD later came back negative. "...it is very doubtful that the suspect committed this offense," says the DPD's gun powder report. The DPD dropped charges, and a recent criminal record search of his name shows that the case has disappeared. (We got records from that case through the Reveremd Ronald Wright, of the advocacy group Justice Seekers).
Four months later, after Lemons was shot, it was Mercado who was put in handcuffs, arrested and questioned. Mercado had called the police after the shooting and waited at the scene:
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He stated he had shot someone and he believed he was dead. RO asked the susp where the gun was that he used. He stated the gun was in his pocket. RO immediately placed the susp in handcuffs for officer safety and confiscated the weapon. The susp was placed in the back of a patrol car and detained for questioning.
What happened afterward, and what exactly made the police decide not to charge Mercado, remains a mystery: the DPD's media line hasn't yet answered follow-up questions about the case, and the police report blacks the bottom half of the narrative out:
Send your story tips to the author, Amy Silverstein.