Escaped San Quentin inmate Shalom Mendoza captured at Taco Bell in Paso Robles

SAN QUENTIN, Calif. (KGO) -- A statewide manhunt for a San Quentin escapee is over.

Twenty-one-year-old Shalom Mendoza was arrested at a Taco Bell restaurant in Paso Robles Saturday afternoon, after police say he traveled from the Bay Area in a car he carjacked from a woman in San Rafael the day after Christmas.

"I went to my table and recognized the giant tattoo above his eyebrow," said witness Crystal Vernoy.



Vernoy thought the man looked strangely familiar, but she had no clue how close she was sitting to a suspected prison escapee.

"This is the booth I was sitting in and that's where he was, the next booth over," said Vernoy.

After a tip from a fellow diner, police came in and arrested the San Quentin escapee Shalom Mendoza.

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The first asked him his name.

"He returned that his name was Andrew. The cop said 'I know your name is not Andrew , don't lie to me about your name,'" said Vernoy.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says its officers searched Mendoza and found no weapons.

He was wearing a black shirt and sweatpants, which police say he bought at a Dollar General store in nearby San Miguel Friday night. Police say earlier he ditched the silver Toyota Rav 4 he was suspected of driving. Authorities found the car off Highway 101.

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"Since the arrest we have confirmed he is also our carjacking suspect at Home Depot in San Rafael," said San Rafael police Sergeant Justin Graham.

Police believe Mendoza was caught on security video driving through the Bay Bridge toll plaza in the Rav 4, just 15 minutes after allegedly carjacking Dang Nguyen who was shopping at Home Depot, surveillance video captured the crime.

"He came fast, he said give me your keys or I will kill you," said Nguyen.



San Quentin officials say Mendoza somehow walked away from a supervised work detail outside the security perimeter on Dec. 26th. He was serving a five-year sentence for using a deadly weapon during a carjacking in Los Angeles County.

"I'm just glad he got caught and he didn't harm anybody," said Vernoy.

Mendoza is being held at Salinas Valley State Prison. Authorities say his case will be referred to the Marin County District Attorney's Office. It's unclear if Mendoza will be returned to San Quentin Prison.
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