State Watch

Officer who killed woman in Washington state had been fired from previous job: report

A Washington state police officer who fatally shot a 39-year-old mother in 2020 was dismissed from a previous job just over a year before the shooting, according to a report from The Seattle Times.

Daniel Mendoza spent seven months as a probationary Whatcom County sheriff’s deputy before he was dismissed for poor performance in 2019. In that role, he reportedly failed to recite statutes, got lost while responding to calls, wrote muddled reports and failed tests that included topics like appropriate use of force, the Times reported.  

He was hired as a rookie police officer in Redmond, Wash., in 2019, just under one month after his dismissal.

On Sept. 20, 2020, Mendoza allegedly shot Andrea Churna, the divorced mother of a 7-year-old, six times.

Churna was having a mental health crisis and had called the police for help under the belief someone was attempting to break into her apartment and kill her, the Times reported. 

Prior to officers arriving at her home, Churna had reportedly fired one shot into the door of her apartment.

An investigation into the shooting found that her handgun malfunctioned and was found on a patio table after Churna’s death, the Times reported.

After the police responded to her 911 call, she reportedly left her apartment with the gun in her hand. Two other officers alleged that she pointed the gun at them. Shots were fired and they hit other apartments. 

A probe into the situation indicated that Chruna had not fired shots at the officers and she made it back into her apartment unscathed. 

When she came out of her apartment a second time, she had her hands up and was unarmed. She was ordered to get on the floor and was allegedly squirming. The Times reported that Mendoza was on the only officer who fired his weapon at that moment, according to sheriff’s documents. 

The Times also reported issues during Mendoza’s Washington State Criminal Justice Training. The paper reported that he was ranked last in his class academically and failed a mock test repeatedly, rendering him unable to graduate.

Personnel records obtained by the Times appeared to show that Whatcom County stepped in to help Mendoza pass on his third attempt, and only then did the academy certify him as a peace officer. 

“He does not have a working knowledge of common RCWs [Revised Code of Washington] that he should have a strong knowledge of coming out of the academy. Examples of this have been the definition of ‘necessary’,” Whatcom County Deputy Chief Doug Chadwick wrote to field training Lt. Rodger Funk following Mendoza’s second failed attempt to pass the test, the Times added. 

“Every recruit is required to recite [the definition] verbatim regularly at the academy, yet he could not,” Chadwick continued.  

The definition that Mendoza failed to recite had to do with when officers are allowed to use deadly force. 

The Hill has reached out to the Redmond Police Department for comment. 


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