AP NEWS

Suspect in college football player’s death ruled competent

March 9, 2020 GMT

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man charged with killing a football player and wounding New York Giants cornerback Corey Ballentine in a Kansas shooting will stand trial after a court-appointed psychiatrist changed his initial diagnosis that the suspect was incompetent.

Francisco Mendez, 19, is charged with first-degree murder in the April 2019 shooting of Washburn University football player Dwane Simmons and the wounding of Ballentine.

The psychiatrist, David Blakely, said during a competency hearing that Mendez pretended not to understand the judicial proceedings against him, prompting Blakely to determine Mendez was incompetent for trial.

But Blakely changed his diagnosis Monday after seeing and hearing Shawnee County Jail recordings and video of Mendez discussing the case with others, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Shawnee County District Judge Cheryl Rios then scheduled Mendez’s trial to begin July 13.

Simmons, Ballentine and three Washburn players were shot at as they celebrated in Topeka hours after Ballentine learned the Giants had drafted him. The three other players were not injured.

Mendez pleaded not guilty in September to first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and seven other counts in unrelated crimes.

Blakely said during a hearing on Feb. 27 that he was not able to say if Mendez was competent because Mendez had not cooperated with the testing.

Mendez was more cooperative during the second consultation, “but I still wouldn’t tell you I know a lot about him,” Blakely said Monday.

In video and recordings played during Monday’s hearing, Mendez talked about how he hoped to be declared incompetent and sent for six months of mental evaluation at Larned State Hospital. He also discussed plans to fire his defense attorney.

Blakely said Monday that Mendez had said during their meetings that he “didn’t know what a jury was” and that clearly was not the case.