STILLWATER, Minn. — An Uber driver spotted a woman who had been shot lying on the side of the road and flagged down police to help her, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday.
According to the charges filed in Washington County court, an Uber driver had just dropped a customer off in May Township and was headed back to Stillwater early the morning of June 9, when he thought he saw an animal on the side of the road. When the figure lifted its head, he realized it was a woman.
He told investigators that he stopped and asked if she needed help, and she screamed that she had been shot. He told police he tried to call 911 but was unable to get a signal. He wrapped the woman in a blanket and put her in the back of his vehicle, began driving, and was able to complete the 911 call and then flag down an officer.
The woman was brought to Regions Hospital in critical condition, where she had surgery. After several days and attempts to give a statement, she was able to tell police what happened. She told them that her friend had introduced her to a man she described as a meth dealer and a member of the Sureños 13 gang.
She told police that she bought a gun from this man and another gang member, Luis Alfredo Cortez Mendoza, 23, on June 8. She said she paid $300 of the $400 price, and told them to come back for the rest of the money later.
She placed the gun in her nightstand that night and when she awoke it was gone, according to the complaint. She texted the man who sold her the gun, and told police that later that morning he came to her St. Paul apartment with Mendoza.
The victim told investigators that she, her roommate and three others were home at the time. She said the two men stayed at the apartment, brandishing firearms and demanding the money she owed them. She said they heated a metal tool over an open flame and made two people hold it. When she refused to hold the tool, she told police, they ordered her to leave with them.
The victim and other witnesses told police that Mendoza was not in charge and would do whatever the other man told him to do. The two men drove the victim around throughout the day and into the night, she told police. As it got darker, she asked if she could go home, and she said the other man told Mendoza to take her.
She said Mendoza was getting "increasingly angry and agitated" until he told her it was time to get out. She said she got out and Mendoza shot at her three times, according to the complaint, striking her once in the chest. She said he then jumped in his car to flee.
When officers arrested Mendoza later on June 15, the complaint states that he admitted to being a member of Sureños 13. He told police that the other man had ordered him to shoot and kill the victim, and given him the gun. He said he drove around for several hours and "contemplated whether he should go through with killing her," but he was afraid that he would be killed if he didn't. The complaint states that he admitted to shooting the victim.
Mendoza is charged with one count of aiding and abetting attempted murder for the benefit of a gang, a felony with a maximum sentence of 40 years. He's also charged with aiding and abetting kidnapping to commit great bodily harm or "terrorize for the benefit of a gang."
On Tuesday, the other man Mendoza said ordered him to kill the victim was arrested. He is expected to be charged with aiding and abetting first and second degree murder for the benefit of a gang, and aiding and abetting kidnapping for the benefit of a gang.