Peoria police booked an El Mirage man on suspicion of second-degree murder following a bizarre drowning incident Saturday near Lake Pleasant, a department spokesman said. Police originally reported that 20-year-old Eduardo Mercado tried to save his friend, 21-year-old Rueben Diaz, after they and a third suspect stole two paddleboats at a pond maintained by the Maricopa Water District north of the Valley.
Police now say Mercado threw Diaz in the water, then jumped in and forced Diaz’s head under the surface, a Sunday news release from Peoria Police Department spokesman Jay Davies said. A third man, 26-year-old Julian Tamayo, remained inside one of the paddleboats, authorities said
Divers from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office recovered Diaz’s body Sunday, which was stuck in the salty floor of the pond, police said.
Police said the suspects admitted they were using meth before stealing the boats.
“The three men had tied the two paddleboats together, and Mercado became angry when Diaz was paddling his boat in the opposite direction Mercado and Tamayo were paddling theirs,” the statement said. “Mercado threw Diaz in the water, prevented him from coming back aboard the boats, then jumped in and held him under the surface repeatedly, until Diaz finally disappeared below the surface,” police said.
Police say witnesses at a nearby facility saw the men in the water and called police.
“Mercado and Tamayo returned to shore, but the witnesses detained them until police arrived,” the statement said.
Mercado and Tamayo also faced theft charges before investigators determined they were dealing with a homicide case, police said.
Police said they will also recommend charges against Tamayo of hindering prosecution and aggravated assault on a police officer. Police said Tamayo assaulted an officer in the booking area of the police station. The hindering charge is related his assistance in trying to help Mercado escape after the incident, they said.
No word yet as to whether Mercado has hired an attorney.
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