A chilling account of the slaying of a 16-year-old boy in front of a taco stand next to the Sears parking lot on State Street was revealed in court documents Monday.
Early Saturday, Luis Salazar Mendoza, 23, and Alexis Rodriguez, 17, were arrested at Motel 6 in Woods Cross, just hours after investigators had issued warrants for their arrests. Mendoza, the man detectives say killed Diego Mendoza, was charged in 3rd District Court with aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder, second-degree felony attempted homicide and three counts of discharging a firearm from a car in the direction of a person or building, all third-degree felonies. Diego Mendoza and Luis Salazar Mendoza are not related.
Rodriguez, who is being prosecuted as an adult, was charged in 3rd District Court with first-degree felony murder and third-degree felony discharging a firearm from a car in the direction of a person or building.
On Jan. 6, Diego Mendoza, Joel Mendoza and Edner Orona were driving down State Street and stopped at 754 South, the area near the taco stand. When they got out, Orona, 23, got into an argument with two men in another vehicle, according to court documents.
"The driver of the white vehicle, later identified as defendant Luis Salazar Mendoza, approached Mr. Orona and shot him four times with a ... .40-caliber Glock handgun. After the driver shot Mr. Orona, he walked to Mr. Orona's vehicle and shot Diego Mendoza four times," court documents stated.
Luis Mendoza also fired three times at Joel Mendoza who by then was running from the vehicle but did not hit him, according to court documents.
After Joel Mendoza ran off, Rodriguez ordered Luis Mendoza to walk over to Orona, who was lying on the ground, and said, "Kill him! He's still alive," according to court documents.
"Mendoza then held his gun to Mr. Orona's head, and pulled the trigger. When the gun failed to fire, the defendant told Mr. Orona, 'You're (expletive) lucky!"' court documents state.
A big break for Salt Lake police detectives came last week when they arrested the woman whose vehicle they believe was used by the defendants. Michelle Ramirez, 22, was arrested Tuesday and has been charged with obstruction of justice.
Investigators gathered additional information later in the week that Mendoza and Rodriquez were staying at the Woods Cross Motel 6. Salt Lake City police detective Jared Wihongi said he did not know how long the suspects had been staying at the motel, or if they were trying to hide after hearing that warrants had been issued for their arrests.
Members of the Salt Lake City and Salt Lake Metro Gang Units found the suspects' vehicle parked at the motel and set up a containment area. When one of the suspects walked out of his room, he was immediately arrested without incident, Wihongi said.
After that, police called into the room for the second man to surrender. He did so without incident, Wihongi said. A search warrant was obtained for the room. Wihongi did not disclose Monday what, if anything, was found.
Court records show Mendoza was previously charged with drug possession, criminal mischief and making false statements.Rodriguez has previously been convicted as an adult under the Serious Youth Offender statute, according to court documents. In September, he pleaded guilty to an amended charge of second-degree felony aggravated robbery. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors did not seek gang enhancement charges, according to court records. On Nov. 27, Rodriguez was given a suspended prison sentence and placed on 36 months probation for the aggravated robbery conviction.
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