Officer appears to have waived the stand, but man detained after preliminary hearing for car tampering


By Natalia Ruvalcaba

RIVERSIDE, CA – Alfredo Castellano Mendoza faces charges here in Riverside County Superior Court for deterring, threatening and intimidating a witness as well as tampering with a vehicle after being discovered under a parked car that allegedly suffered damage.

The owner of the vehicle that Mendoza is accused of having tampered with, told police that his car broke down on the night of December 7, 2020. Doe would then decide to leave his car and return the next day after – midday.

However, the report notes that when Jane Doe returned the next day with her son-in-law, the Mendoza and an accomplice were in her vehicle.

The police officer who initially answered the 911 call said that when the victim arrived at the scene, she saw a man on the driver’s side trying to get into the vehicle and another on the passenger’s side.

According to the officer, she then asked the two men what they were doing, to which they replied that they were just fixing the car and that she should not call the police. The event then escalated and the victim said she felt threatened and feared for her safety.

Deputy Public Defender Wesley Chang asked the officer, “Why did she feel threatened? The officer said the man under the vehicle, suspect Mendoza, was intimidatingly holding a metal bar, according to the victim.

Chang then questioned the officer’s account, noting that the victim and her son-in-law spoke little or no English.

But the officer insisted that Jane Doe recount the start of the event.

PD Chang asked if there was a certified interpreter or translator. And the officer his fluency in Spanish was limited and that he had only spent one semester in high school studying the subject, and also admitted that he had not called an assistant who could interpret the Spanish, and rather, had received help from the mechanic.

PD Chang asked when his mechanic arrived, and the officer said later, but the officer said he hadn’t written down any information about the man.

Chang asked if at any point the suspect approached the victim, to which the officer replied, “No. He reported that after the suspect lifted the metal bar, Mendoza and his accomplice ran to the SUV parked behind the victim’s car and drove away.

The officer told PD Chang that the victim took a photo of the car, and when he checked the plates, it drove him to Mendoza. However, although the officer said there was a cut in the tailpipe, he was unable to get fingerprints from the tailpipe.

The lawyer had nothing more to add and Judge Randall Stamen called the lawyers to the side bar.

Mendoza’s attorney, PD Chang, filed a 17B motion to reduce the charges to misdemeanors, but the judge dismissed it and set a binding settlement conference for December 20.

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