The father of a man killed in a dispute last month at a Morris Park home said he is still searching for answers after his son’s assailant received a light sentence.
Michael Mendoza, 21, was killed on the morning of Friday, August 11, by 26-year-old Joseph Matos at Matos’ home at 1651 Tomlinson Avenue.
Matos shot Mendoza through an apartment window while Mendoza was standing on his porch.
Mendoza, who was joined by three other people, was holding a shotgun, which he discharged toward Matos, according to police.
Mendoza was transported to Jacobi Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead. The shooting was deemed to be in self-defense by investigators
Matos, a familiar face to local police, with a prior drug offense conviction, was found with drugs in the apartment and was initially charged with a slew of weapon and drug-related counts.
However despite the litany of charges, Matos pleaded guilty to a single charge on Wednesday, August 30: fourth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor.
He was also granted a conditional discharge that will allow him to avoid jail time as long as he stays out of trouble for the next twelve months.
“Matos was charged with the weapons charges at his arraignment, but when no gun or other ballistic evidence was recovered…we didn’t have evidence to proceed with the homicide,” said D.A. office spokeswoman Patrice O’Shaughnessy.
Miguel Mendoza, Michael’s father, said he still has unanswered questions about the shooting that took his son’s life and is asking District Attorney Darcel Clarke to review the case.
Among them is how the shooting could be deemed self-defense by investigators if the weapon Matos used was never recovered.
“The only story they have is from the people who don’t want to go to jail,” Mendoza said. “My son can’t speak for himself and they didn’t bother to look at the autopsy report.”
While he attended Matos’s criminal court proceedings, Mendoza said he was not allowed to address the judge and requests to see his son’s autopsy have not been met.
Mendoza wants to know what angle the bullet entered his son’s body, and how many gunshot wounds he suffered.
Investigators also mentioned the possibility Mendoza was killed by friendly fire, his father said.
“Wouldn’t the autopsy be a main part of an investigation? Mendoza said. “Isn’t that the only voice the deceased have?”
O’Shaughnessy said it often takes months for an autopsy to be released, but that it would eventually be available through the medical examiner’s office.
Mendoza said he was also frustrated by the D.A. office’s protection of Matos, the defendant, even though he engaged in the same kind of illegal drug activity his son was alleged to be involved in.
“The assistant district attorney said Matos is a drug dealer who sells drugs right (from) that same porch,” Mendoza said. “If Matos were a police officer the scrutiny he would have faced would be incredible, but as a drug dealer the courtesy extended to him, the defendant, is simply unbelievable.