Former Pasco deputy accused of destroying evidence

- A former Pasco County deputy was arrested for the second time after home surveillance cameras caught him committing a crime, Sheriff Chris Nocco announced Friday morning.

This is the second arrest on Joseph Mercado's record, Nocco said. The first time was for a simple battery charge and resulted in his termination from the sheriff's office earlier in March.

"This isn't one of the bravest, happiest days of our career that we have to do these things but we have to do these things," Nocco said Friday.

Mercado now faces a tampering charge because he planted evidence, the sheriff said. He explained Mercado made a drug arrest on December 8, 2017.

During the arrest, he confiscated a bag of drugs, but surveillance video appears to show him throwing the bag into another homeowner's backyard.

The following morning, a neighbor asked the homeowner why deputies were in front of his home, but the homeowner had no clue the incident occurred, Nocco said. The homeowner looked at his home surveillance video and observed Mercado throwing the bag into his backyard. 

The homeowner alerted deputies, but the matter was never followed up, Nocco said.

That is, until the homeowner saw Mercado on the news for another incident.

In February 2018, Mercado allegedly went to a woman's home at 3 a.m. and began inappropriately touching himself in front of her. He also allegedly came into physical contact with the woman, resulting in a battery charge.

The homeowner prompted the sheriff's office to follow-through on information he provided in December.

Sheriff Nocco acknowledged things seemed to be falling through the cracks.

"I don't know how many things are going to come out," Nocco said. "I can promise you your cases will be looked at too."

He added at least one additional case related to Mercado is being investigated.

The homeowner, who was on probation, told the sheriff he was concerned he was being set up.

"I promise you, we're never going to set somebody up. I promise you, we are going to do the right thing for the right reasons and when something bad like this happens and our honesty and our trust could be shattered by one individual, that's one individual too much," said Sheriff Nocco.

As for the dozens of cases Mercado investigated, the State Attorney's Office and public defender are now combing through all of his cases.

"This person has done this crime and any cases with their name on it should have a question mark," said Nocco.

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