Crime - Sacto 911

Man suspected of assaulting his stepchildren in Rancho Cordova remains at large

A 39-year-old man suspected of assaulting his two stepchildren, 10 and 15, Sunday afternoon at the American River in Rancho Cordova is still at large, authorities said.

Sacramento County Regional Parks rangers responded to a call at 2:41 p.m. Sunday by a family member of the children, reporting that they had been assaulted by their stepfather, a tattooed, bald Hispanic man later identified as Johnny Mercado, 39.

The caller also said Mercado had been drinking, according to rangers spokesperson Ken Casparis.

“The 15-year-old was hit with a paddle,” Casparis said. “The 10-year-old was thrown into the river without a life jacket.”

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office and the Sacramento Police Department cooperated with rangers Sunday. A helicopter and a boat were dispatched to search the area, Casparis said.

The boat led the search for a short time while officers believed Mercado was still in the water. Casparis said the suspect fled through the park and is still at large.

The children left the park with their mother, he reported. They did not have any injuries that required medical attention.

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Caroline Ghisolfi, from Stanford University, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee, focusing on breaking news and health care. She grew up in Milan, Italy.