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Prisoner Killed, Officer Injured in Courtroom Shooting

July 19, 1991

SALINAS, Calif. (AP) _ A handcuffed man in court for an arraignment Thursday tried to take a bailiff’s gun and was killed, a witness said. One officer was wounded in the scuffle.

Daniel Ray Mendoza, 37, of Salinas, had faced six felony charges related to an attempted armed robbery, court records showed. He also had finished parole in 1987 for a murder conviction 10 years earlier, according to the records.

Mendoza ″was kicking and jumping real high to get the gun″ from the bailiff, said Grace Mitchell, who was in the courtroom at the time. Her boyfriend, Fred Murphy, in court for extradition proceedings, was handcuffed at the wrist to Mendoza but wasn’t injured.

As the bailiff and Mendoza fought, two more uniformed deputies arrived, Mitchell said. Each grabbed one of Mendoza’s arms, but ″somewhere he broke loose and got the officer’s gun,″ she said.

Mitchell said she heard five shots. ″I heard one officer say, ’I got hit,‴ she said.

The injured officer, Don Wallich, was shot in the hip and was in stable condition at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, a nursing supervisor said.

It wasn’t immediately clear who shot Mendoza, nor whether he shot Wallich or another officer did accidentally. The names of other officers involved weren’t released. Salinas police wouldn’t comment before a news conference scheduled for Friday.

Mendoza had tried to hang himself in jail Wednesday, saidJohn Davison, head of the county Department of Corrections. He said Mendoza denied the suicide attempt to officials but told fellow prisoners he was afraid of drawing a long prison term.

Update hourly