By MARY RAINWATER
A man involved in an almost 5 1/2-hour standoff with Palestine law enforcement Monday was transferred to the Cherokee County Jail Tuesday morning for a state parole warrant, with other charges pending on federal and state warrants in other jurisdictions.
Jorge Mendoza, a 30-year-old Hispanic male, surrendered to Palestine Police Office negotiators Det. David Kassaw and Sgt. James Muniz after five hours of talks with the officers at a residence in the 800 block of Lamar Street.
Mendoza was considered an armed and dangerous fugitive following a Saturday night incident during which he evaded law enforcement officers, leading to an unsuccessful multi-agency manhunt in Palestine.
Just before 3 p.m. on Monday, Palestine City Marshall Mark Harcrow received a tip on the possible whereabouts of Mendoza, prompting a search by Harcrow, Palestine Police Department officers, Anderson County Sheriff’s Office deputies and members of the U. S. Marshal’s Office.
“Officers responded to the Leigh Apartments in the 200 block of South Church Street,” Muniz said. “Police were able to conduct a brief search of the area and one apartment, but Mendoza was not located.”
Shortly after that, police received a report of a Hispanic male trying to break into a house in the 700 block of Lamar Street, located approximately three blocks from the apartment where Mendoza was said to have been hiding.
“Police responded to the area and again were unable to locate Mendoza,” Muniz said. “After the extensive search for Mendoza on Saturday, it appeared that the suspect had again slipped away.”
In their continued search of the area, PPD Sgt. Richard Johnson located Mendoza hiding inside a clothes dryer in a garage adjacent to a house in the 800 block of Lamar Street. Johnson was able to determine that Mendoza was armed with two handguns.
Officers from the PPD, ACSO, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and the U.S. Marshal’s Office quickly responded to the scene and set up a perimeter, leaving Mendoza without an escape route.
“It was reported that Mendoza was holding a gun to his head and stated that he was not going back to jail,” Muniz said.
The standoff between Mendoza and officers began at about 5:30 p.m. Monday. Two women and two children were removed from the adjacent residence at about 6:10 p.m.
Kassaw, a trained hostage negotiator, began talking with Mendoza, with Sgt. Muniz assisting with the negotiations.
“After several hours of talking, we were able to convince Mendoza to give up one of the guns in his possession,” Muniz said. “We were able to see that Mendoza was still in possession of a dark colored revolver.”
Kassaw and Muniz continued to talk with Mendoza, and after more hours of negotiations, the suspect threw the second gun out from his hiding place. Officers were able to take Mendoza into custody without a shot being fired at about 10:50 p.m.
“He wanted to speak to his mom and we agreed to let him talk to her if he gave up the second gun,” Muniz said. “He surrendered, and we gave him some water and let him talk to her.”
Just before Mendoza’s surrender, a tactical team was brought to the scene but their services were not utilized during the negotiations or surrender, Muniz said.
“Everyone worked together and determined that if they had to go that route, it might not be a bad idea to have them there,” he said. “We were considering all the scenarios and they were there just in case.”
Palestine Police Chief Robert Herbert praised the efforts of every agency involved, particularly those of the police department and Muniz and Kassaw, in bringing the standoff to a peaceful end.
“Muniz and Kassaw did an outstanding job as negotiators,” Herbert said. “We had several contingency plans and we relied on them to guide us as to what we needed to do.
“On behalf of the city, we are so proud of these men for their being patient in handling a situation that could have easily turned into a disaster.”
According to Muniz, Mendoza was booked on several felony charges, including a state parole warrant and federal charges, and said that the PPD would be putting together additional information to present to the district attorney and U.S. Attorneys offices.
“They will decided from there whether or not to file additional charges,” he said, also adding that Mendoza had an outstanding warrant out of Cherokee County for a drug-related incident that occurred about six weeks ago.
Mendoza’s parole violation charge was an automatic “no bond,” meaning that the suspect could not be released from jail on bond.
Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org