Left three different law enforcement agencies within one year.
WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. – Newly obtained files show the aggressive police officer seen attacking a rail worker in the video had been previously arrested by his city employer for battery. He also held three different positions with three separate law enforcement departments in less than eight months.
Following several Freedom of Information Act requests by NEA Report, we received the personnel files of former Walnut Ridge Police Department Officer Matthew Mercado. With the video depicting Mercado both physically assaulting and verbally assaulting a railroad worker in an unmarked truck, questions from the public have emerged about Mercado, his employment, his background and more.
Arrested Two Years Prior in Walnut Ridge
The detail which stood out the most in the hundreds of pages of files we received was that Mercado reported he had been arrested by Walnut Ridge Police Department for third degree battery in 2014. The reported arrest was on June 10, 2014 by Captain Walrupe, according to Mercado’s written application. He states he was found not guilty and all money was refunded.
NEA Report has submitted a FOIA request for this arrest report and all files associated with it. We will follow-up on this in a separate story.
The second of the two most significant details found in the files were that he worked at three different law enforcement agencies in a span of about eight months. He was previously employed in Colorado by LaJunta Police Department from April 30, 2016 to May 24, 2016 – for less than one month. He was also employed by the Crowley County Sheriff’s Department from May 28, 2016 to August 4, 2016 – a span of a little over two months.
After leaving that job, he was not employed again until October, 2016 – as a pump technician for an oil company in Parachute, Colorado. He worked there for two months until December. His personnel file says he left it to, “relocate family back to Arkansas.”
He was hired by Walnut Ridge Police Department on December 15, 2016. It was merely 11 days after he was hired the incident took place with railroad worker Adam Finley.
Mercado said he felt like the most concerning social problem was the, “entitlement mentality.” This was under a section of the application related to attitudes on different topics.
Another addressed deadly force, when necessary.
“I have no reservations about using deadly force to protect the innocent, a fellow peace officer, or myself,” Mercado wrote. “I would also attempt to use non-deadly force if the situation permits.”
Mercado’s psychological evaluation was completed by Brad Williams, PH.D. Little Rock. In the evaluation, Williams wrote he felt Mercado was, “found to be free of any significant emotional or behavioral problems at this time in his life and is recommended for further participation in police work.”
At 7:46 AM on Feb. 7, 2017, Mercado resigned from Walnut Ridge Police Department through a text message to Chief of Police Chris Kirksey. In Kirksey’s attached letter, he wrote Mercado said he literally thought about it all night and decided to resign his position at WRPD, citing being able to provide for his children as the reason. He also stated he would like to think Kirksey would reconsider him as an applicant if a consolidation of Walnut Ridge and Hoxie were to happen.
“Morning Chief,” the text message began. “I’m sorry but I have thought about it and I am going to resign sir.”
Kirksey wrote glowing praise for Mercado in an email.
“I would like to take this time to thank you for the time you have spent with us as an employee and police officer at the Walnut Ridge Police Department,” Kirksey wrote. “You have truly stood out in a great light through the hard work you’ve displayed in the short time you spent here.”