MENDOCINO COUNTY – Tristan Mendez turned 18 just a couple of weeks ago. It appears that he celebrated his adulthood, and the Thanksgiving weekend, by joining up with a friend, who is still 17, and embarking on an armed robbery spree, first at a store right in his own town of Redwood Valley, just north of Ukiah and Lake Mendocino, and then many miles away in Albion, on the Mendocino County Coast.
Mendez lives in the wooded hills west of Redwood Valley, on road called Radical Ridge, which is opposite another colorfully named route through the Mendocino Range called Find Yer Way, both of which wind though the forested lands near the Montgomery Woods State Reserve. According to a Mendocino Sheriff’s office press release, he is suspected of holding up the Little Baker’s Market in Redwood Valley on Saturday afternoon.
Witnesses reported to Sheriff’s deputies that around 2:00 in the afternoon that a man had entered the store, threatened the cashier with a knife and demanded money. The cashier did as he asked, handing over an undisclosed amount of cash, and the robber took off, getting in the passenger seat of a 1990’s green Honda sedan. The car took off south on East Road.
The witnesses could only describe the suspect as having olive skin, but with a black cloth over his lower face, and dark sunglasses covering his eyes. He also wore a black beanie cap, black gloves, and a lime green jumpsuit or coveralls. He stood about 5’5″ and was of thin build. They believed the getaway car driver was female.
It was just a couple of weeks ago when this small rural outpost of Little Baker’s Market, a veterinarian, a pizza restaurant, and Taylor’s Tavern was the site of an apparently suicidal man who attracted attention by pointing a shotgun at himself in the parking lot. Kevin Bobby Norton drove away before deputies arrived, but ended up shooting himself in the face while being sought. His wounds were treatable, and he was arrested on various weapons charges.
While the Sheriff’s department investigated this latest incident, Mendez and his juvenile partner, who turned out to be male despite the witness descriptions, made plans for another robbery. Either Saturday night or early Sunday morning, they headed out towards the coast, about a 65 mile drive through the coastal range mountains to the small town of Albion. Located 15 miles south of Fort Bragg, Albion has fewer than 200 residents. Located at Albion and Whitesboro Coves, it is primarily a tourist destination for people wanting to enjoy the beautiful Mendocino coastline.
Mendez entered the Albion Grocery Store a little before 11:00 am wearing the same disguise as before, except with dark clothing instead of the green jumpsuit. He approached the woman working there while holding one hand inside a paper bag, suggesting he had a gun. The clerk later said she thought she saw a gun, but could not be sure. He demanded that she hand over all the $20 bills, which she did, totaling about $500.00. With the money in hand, he ran out of the store, jumped into the same green Honda driven by the friend, and they headed up Highway 1, turning right on Albion Little River Road towards Comptche, according to a witness.
The Sheriff’s department mobilized deputies from both the coastal area and inland Ukiah, along with State Park Rangers to converge on Comptche, another small town of under 200, located in the woods south of the Jackson State Forest, between Albion and Redwood Valley. One deputy spotted the suspect car traveling at a high rate of speed on the two lane Comptche-Ukiah Road, about 4 miles short of Comptche. After reporting the location, the deputy had to turn around to pursue the car.
When the deputy got to town, citizens reported the car had continued east along the road. However, other deputies coming from the Ukiah area did not see the car coming their way. Meanwhile, Mendez and friend had pulled off the road onto a driveway near the Flynn Creek Road intersection. They had parked the car and got out, apparently to flee on foot. The landowner, however, confronted the two trespassers, and they got back into the car to try somewhere else. As they were leaving, the cadre of deputies spotted them, and they were quickly stopped and taken into custody.
In the car, deputies found the stolen $500.00, a knife, a black facemask, gloves and beanie cap. They were pretty certain they had their culprits from both robberies. Both teens were arrested on charges of armed robbery and conspiracy. Tristan George Scott Mendez was taken to the Mendocino County jail, with bail set at $150,000, while his partner in crime was taken to juvenile hall.