Merced, CA — Police in the city of Merced, California reported that a city councilmen who was a retired police officer used a handgun to stop “an all out brawl” that had spilled into a grocery store full of people.
Around 9:30pm on Tuesday, September 22nd, police were called to a FoodMaxx on 1300 W. Olive Avenue. The caller stated that there were multiple men fighting in the store.
According to the police investigation, Armando Oritz, 19, and Matthew Tijerina, 21, were waiting outside the store for a 19-year-old man to exit, along with two unknown suspects. This was an ambush.
When the young man walked out the door, the four suspects all began to assault the man at once. The fight grew loud and violent until eventually, all five men had brawled their way into the store.
Not A Fair Fight
In the pet food aisle, City Council member Fernando Echevarria, was shopping with his wife when he heard “people hitting each other, screaming, yelling and breaking glass.”
Echevarria, who had a career in law enforcement, ran towards the noise. He came to the end of the aisle and saw an “all out brawl.” According to Echevarria, it wasn’t four on one anymore, because other bystanders had gotten involved. He reported said there were between four and seven people –all men except one woman — involved in the melee which lasted about five to seven minutes.
At one point, the fight was blocking both sets of double doors that were the entrance and exist. This wasn’t a great situation, but when one man made a comment about going to “get my piece” and made threats to shoot people inside the store, Echevarria knew there wasn’t time to wait for the police to arrive.
Echevarria saw his window: He told his wife to stay back as he ran out to his car and retrieved a Smith & Wesson 9 mm semi-automatic handgun from the trunk of his vehicle.
Turning The Tide
A local station reports:
Echevarria described taking a stance holding people involved in the brawl at gunpoint, including the person he claimed made the threats and was reaching in his pants when he returned from the parking lot.
He ordered everybody to the ground, and four of the people he held at gunpoint dispersed quickly and left. “Because I was involved in law enforcement, it was my top priority to make sure nothing was going to happen to the public,” Echevarria said.
“I ordered everyone back, I thought he had a firearm, he could have — better to be safe than sorry.”
Echevarria said he ordered all citizens and staff to the back of the store with the majority of them complying as his wife Maribel Romero also tried to get people to the back of the store.
During the incident, he said the individual who had been making the threats tore up registers and other items. Echevarria said he ordered that person to exit, but he did not leave. “We didn’t know if it was a robbery”, he said.
The confrontation ended when police, firefighters and ambulance personnel arrived on scene, Echevarria said. Echevarria said he did not want the person making the threats to enter the store saying he probably would have shot him on sight if he had a weapon, but the suspect did not. “My first instinct was to protect my wife and the public,” he said.
Once law enforcement arrived on scene, Echevarria said he surrendered his weapon and identified himself to the first officer he saw that wasn’t chasing after a suspect.
“We are not to tolerate such behavior,” said Echevarria clarifying that he was speaking as a City of Merced resident and not as a City Councilmember. “We are a civilized society and city,” he said. “And we need to respect the laws—we need to not have fear when we go to a grocery store.”
Battling For Bread In The Grocery Store
Police reports indicated that the brawlers caused over $1,000 in damage to the grocery store. Additionally, the 19-year-old victim of the ambush was hospitalized due to his injuries.
The police investigation concluded that no shots were fired during the incident. Both Tijerina and Ortiz were booked into the Merced County Jail on suspicion of vandalism, according to police.
Guns Save Lives
Who knows what could have happened in that grocery store while they waited for police to arrive? Regular American citizens are learning better each day that they can’t rely on police to be there when bad people do bad things.
Carry every day, everywhere you can.