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October 13, 2023

Philly police ID officer slain in airport shooting, share video of suspect in purported getaway car

Richard Mendez, 50, was killed Thursday night when he and his partner confronted a group of people breaking into a car. Investigators are focused on the vehicle that left the scene

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Philly Police Shooting @PhillyPolice/Twitter

Philadelphia police are zeroing in on the Dodge Durango they say left the scene of Thursday night's shooting at the Philadelphia International Airport. Officer Richard Mendez, 50, was killed when he and his partner confronted a group of people who were breaking into a car, police said.

The Philadelphia police officer fatally shot late Thursday night inside an airport parking garage was identified by authorities Friday as 50-year-old Richard Mendez.

Mendez and his partner, 60-year-old Raul Ortiz, were both shot after they confronted a group of people who were attempting to break into a car, police said. The two officers heard glass shatter inside the Terminal D garage just as they were reporting for their shifts around 11 p.m. 

Mendez was shot multiple times in the upper torso during a struggle with as many as four people, police said. He died a short time later at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. Ortiz was shot once in the arm and is still recovering from his injuries at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. 

Another man, identified as 18-year-old Jesus Herman Madera-Duran, also was killed by the gunfire, police said.

The focus of the investigation has been a dark-colored Dodge Durango that was seen leaving the airport. Police said the SUV dropped Madera-Duran off at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia not long after the shooting. He died there Thursday night. 

Surveillance footage released Friday shows at least one suspect in the Durango as it traveled from the airport to a lot at CHOP, authorities said. In the video, the suspect is seen removing Madera-Duran from the Durango and placing him on the ground to be taken into the hospital.

"We believe that Durango is the same Durango that was seen leaving the (airport) parking garage, so we are now believing that this is connected," Deputy Commissioner Frank Vanore said. "That individual, we believe, was shot in the same incident as the two police officers."

Some time after leaving CHOP, the Durango was driven to South Brunswick, New Jersey — about 55 miles northeast of Philadelphia — and set on fire, Vanore said. 

Authorities in South Brunswick notified Philadelphia police that a Durango matching the description of the one sought in the city had been found abandoned and burning around 1:30 a.m. 

"There could be up to three additional individuals that were inside that Durango," Vanore said.

Investigators plan to retrieve the vehicle and bring it back to Philadelphia for analysis.

The Durango had been stolen from South Philly about a week ago, police said. The owner of the car told investigators that an Apple Airtag tracking device had been placed on the vehicle. Police tapped into that tracking device, which had been removed from the Durango. It was traced to an area of I-95 near Academy Road, which was temporarily shut down Friday afternoon.

Vanore said the device was found on the highway and will be reviewed for any information that may help investigators.

Police also are processing ballistics and forensic evidence left behind at the airport parking garage. Vanore would not discuss the sources of various video evidence gathered by police. He declined to say whether there is any police body camera footage of the shooting.

Initial reports described the officers as having been off-duty at the time of the shooting. Vanore said Mendez was in uniform with a jacket on top and Ortiz was partially in uniform, wearing a sweatshirt.

"They were reporting to work. They heard a crime," Vanore said. "Two veteran police officers with decades of experience moved toward the crime, so they were working."

Mendez's gun was stolen at some point during the confrontation in the parking garage, Vanore said. It remains missing. Police said it's unclear whose weapon was used to kill Mendez. It's also not clear who shot Madera-Duran, and whether he was responsible for shooting either or both of the officers, Vanore said.

Authorities are now trying to gain more information on the people involved in the shooting. The reward for information leading to an arrest climbed to $148,500 by Friday evening. The National Fraternal Order of Police and other police departments shared posts on X, formerly Twitter, honoring Mendez's service.

Anyone with information connected to the shooting can call or text (215) 686-8477.

Mendez had been a Philadelphia cop for nearly 23 years, mostly with the 25th district in North Philly. He had transferred to the airport district in 2018. He was a husband and father to one daughter, police said.

"Great officer, great person," said Vanore, who previously worked with Mendez in the 25th district. "He was admired by everybody that worked with him."

Ortiz, a 20-year veteran of the department, also spent most of his career in the 25th district before transferring to the airport.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney shared his condolences with Mendez's family, loved ones and members of the police department.

"Officer Mendez made the ultimate sacrifice, and on behalf of the city of Philadelphia, I want to thank him and his family for his service and bravery," Kenney said.

The shooting comes about a week after three officers were shot while responding to a domestic violence call in Rhawnhurst. 

Interim Police Commissioner John Stanford described Mendez's death as a painful moment for the department and the city at large. 

"It's devastating to the city to know that this is the type of behavior that's occurring, the type of individuals that are out there on the street," Stanford said. "To take someone's life over a vehicle that didn't belong to them. It's just a reminder of the work that needs to be done (and) the individuals that are out there that need to be held accountable for their actions."