Shalom Mendoza, who was serving a five-year prison sentence for a weapons charge, has been apprehended after escaping from San Quentin State Prison on December 26, 2018..
A massive manhunt was launched to bring him back into custody. He was found at a Taco Bell in Paso Robles on December 29, according to a news release by the California Department of Corrections.
Officials said Mendoza was taken into custody peacefully. He was taken to the Salinas Valley State Prison and faces charges for escape and carjacking.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Police: Mendoza Walked Away on December 26 While Working Outside of the Secured Perimeter of the Prison
Shalom Mendoza was discovered missing during a prison head count the evening of December 26, 2018. Officials with the San Quentin State Prison, which is located north of San Francisco, have not shared specific details about how Mendoza managed to escape. They have only said that he took advantage of an opportunity while working outside.
In a news release, they explained that Mendoza was “assigned to work outside the secured perimeter of the prison, as many inmates are.” KABC-TV, citing a source, reported that Mendoza may have been assigned to clean a sewage pumping station near the West Gate of the prison.
2. Mendoza Reportedly Stole a Car In a Home Depot Parking Lot Near the Prison
Shalom Mendoza reportedly managed to put greater distance between himself and the prison by stealing a car. Officials said he carjacked a woman in a Home Depot parking lot near San Quentin.
That sparked a hunt for the Toyota RAV4 that was taken, with license plate number 6STZ502. But investigators said Mendoza must have realized police would be looking for the vehicle. The car was found on December 28. It had been abandoned off the 101 Freeway north of Paso Robles. Paso Robles is about 215 miles south of San Quentin, and about 200 miles north of Los Angeles.
KABC-TV spoke with the woman who owns the car. Dang Nguyen claims Mendoza threatened he had a gun, and said if she did not hand over her key, he would kill her. She grabbed her dog from the back seat before he sped away. Nguyen says she ran back inside the Home Depot to call for help.
3. Mendoza Was Spotted in a Dollar Store in San Miguel on Friday, December 28
Shalom Mendoza was spotted in the city of San Miguel on Friday, December 28. Police said a witness saw Mendoza in a Dollar Store around 4:20 p.m. Another sighting was reported early Saturday morning in Paso Robles, where the stolen vehicle was recovered, according to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.
Mendoza has shed his prison uniform and bought dark clothing. Police said they believed he was trying to make his way to Los Angeles.
4. Mendoza Was Sentenced to Five Years in Prison For Use of a Deadly Weapon During a Carjacking
Shalom Mendoza has been at San Quentin State Prison since December 20, 2017. He was serving a five-year prison sentence for a crime committed in Los Angeles County.
Police said Mendoza was sentenced for “use of a deadly weapon during a carjacking/attempted carjacking and evading or attempting to evade a peace officer while driving recklessly.”
5. Mendoza Was the Third California Inmate to Escape in Less Than One Week
Shortly after the escape, the California Department of Corrections expressed optimism in a news release that Shalom Mendoza would be located. They said that since 1977, 99 percent of all offenders who have escaped from prison or community-based programs without permission have been apprehended.
Mendoza is actually the third inmate to escape from a California institution in the space of one week. Justin Franks, 27, who was serving a 40-month sentence for burglary, escaped from Folsom State Prison on December 22. He has not been caught.
On December 23, 52-year-old Eric Levi left the Fenner Canyon Conservation Camp in Los Angeles County. He was captured two days later.