Protestors Gather to Bring Awareness to Police Shooting of 18-Year-Old Centralia Man Last Year


About 15 protesters took to the intersection of West Maple Street and North Pearl Street Monday evening to protest against a Centralia Police officer-involved shooting which resulted in the death of an 18-year-old about a year ago.

“We are protesting for Joshua Flores, he was shot and murdered by a police officer, Fredrick Mercer,” Elena Valencia, the organizer of the protest, said. “We’re here to get Joshua’s story told, it’s been a year and everything has been pushed under the rug.”

On June 18, 2019, Centralia Police officers responded to the 1400 block of Logan Street at around 4:55 a.m. for a reported burglary and encountered Flores, who was holding onto a knife.

Three Centralia Police officers, including Mercer, wound up in a standoff with Flores. Police repeatedly commanded Flores to drop the knife while Flores repeatedly screamed “just do it,” according to prior reporting by The Chronicle. Dispatch audio of the incident indicates a witness said the man wielded an axe.

In a brief standoff — officers reportedly arrived on the scene at 4:55 a.m. and Mercer’s shot was reportedly fired at 5:05 a.m. — Flores had been shot in the chest and later died at a hospital, according to prior reporting by The Chronicle.

A Centralia Police Department press release regarding the shooting stated, “The suspect failed to comply with orders to stop advancing toward the officers and was shot.” 

The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office ruled that the shooting was justified.

Valencia said she feels the account of the incident Centralia police officers provide paints an“exaggerated” picture of the incident, leaving little room to understand Flores’ mental health issues.

“Joshua was known by the police officers, he was known by people here in Centralia, he had a known condition, he was schizophrenic,” Valencia said. “Officer Mercer knew him personally, they’ve worked with each other and they’ve talked with each other.”

Valencia said it was fairly evident Flores was having a mental health episode on the night he was killed and that police could have handled the incident in a way that didn’t result in Flores’ death.

Valencia said Mercer did need to use deadly force at the moment he shot his gun and said, “He could have shot him anywhere, if he believed he couldn’t have used his taser and had to use his gun, he could have shot him in the foot, in the leg, in the arm, not straight into his chest.”

Valencia also contests other details in the police report like whether Flores actually advanced on the officers in a threatening manner and what kind of danger the knife Flores was wielding actually presented to the officers — she says the knife was a butterknife. 

“In the police report with a picture, he had a butterknife,” Valencia said.

So what does Valencia hope to get out of the protest she organized?

She hopes that an independent investigation will be conducted on Flores’ case — which Valencia says is being considered by the Latino Civic Alliance — and that Centralia Police officers are required to have body cameras on at all times.

“It shouldn’t be their word versus ours,” Valencia said.