Neighbors did the right thing to help police make quick arrest

06/29/2014 7:11 PM

06/29/2014 7:27 PM

USA v. Mendoza began with one classic element: A stupid move by a criminal.

Prosecutors say Matthew A. Mendoza decided he’d cruise around shooting guns off early one morning last week. The counts he faces now of intent to distribute cocaine and weapons charges came about because everyone else did all the right things.

If only this scenario could happen more often throughout all portions of the city. People readily called police with pertinent information, officers acted quickly and the rest fell in place. Too often, people don’t call, don’t tell what they know.

About 4 a.m. Tuesday people in and around the Valentine neighborhood heard a series of gunshots and dialed police. The calls kept pouring in, 11 in total, as three officers were heading to the area. Callers helped narrow things to around West 38th and Valentine, and West 37th and Belleview. Police learned that a white and blue car, maybe an Oldsmobile, was involved. Someone got a license plate. Others described the driver.

Within 15 minutes of the first call, police had another call that led them to the suspect. By 8:45 a.m. they obtained a search warrant for the man’s apartment in the 3700 block of Southwest Trafficway.

Meanwhile, neighbors out on early morning walks gathered up seven shell casings and delivered them to Jackson County Legislator Scott Burnett, who lives in the historic Valentine neighborhood and also heard the shots. Burnett had sent an email to neighbors asking for input. One lady, not wanting to contaminate evidence, used a tissue to pick up the shells.

According to an affidavit:

Mendoza admitted the four handguns police found in the apartment were his, along with the live ammunition, including the extended 30-round magazine on the breakfast bar.

He also ’fessed up about the five bags of cocaine and the scale in the living room, the 32 bags in a drawer and the 10 bags in a closet off the bedroom. Total: More than a pound of cocaine.

Mendoza, 26, waived his Miranda rights and told a detective he’d fired shots from at least one, but maybe two handguns while driving a 1970 Cadillac Eldorado. He admitted holding quantities of cocaine for someone else and getting an ounce of cocaine a week for the service. He sold his share for a profit, pocketing about $2,000 each time in a deal had been going on for three years.

Not any longer buddy.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to Follow her on Twitter at @msanchezcolumn.

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