A 16-year-old from Mesa is in the Cochise County jail on a manslaughter charge after he drove at highspeed through a red light at a busy intersection Saturday evening, resulting in the death of an unidentified woman whose car was sheared in two by the impact.
Felix Mendez is being held on $50,000 bail stemming from his arrest for felony counts of manslaughter, aggravated assault, and endangerment. However, both the charges and the amount of bail are expected to increase Monday after formal charges are filed by the Cochise County Attorney’s Office.
According to law enforcement sources, Mendez was behind the wheel of a Dodge Charger around 5 p.m. Saturday when the vehicle failed to yield for a Tombstone Marshal’s deputy during an attempted traffic stop. That contact was near State Route 80 and State Route 82.
A pursuit was initiated by the Tombstone deputy on westbound SR82 at about Milepost 67. At one point the Dodge pulled over briefly and two people jumped out.
It is believed those two were undocumented immigrants. Both were taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents who had responded to the Tombstone deputy’s call for backup.
However, the Dodge again drove away from the deputy, continuing westbound on SR82 with speeds reaching over 100 mph, according to police radio traffic.
A decision was made to terminate the pursuit at about Milepost 59 due to concerns for public safety. At that point any emergency lights on the patrol vehicles were reportedly turned off.
However, Mendez continued driving the Dodge westbound on SR82 at a high rate of speed for another seven or eight miles. He then failed to stop for the red light at the busy intersection of SR82 and State Route 90, known locally as Mustang Corners.
It was there that Mendez slammed into a four door sedan which had a green light. The vehicle was sheared in half, with rear of the car -including the axle and wheels- coming to rest several feet away.
The female driver died at the scene.
A spokesperson for Arizona Department of Public Safety, which has investigative responsibility for the homicide investigation, told Arizona Daily Independent that a statement would not be released Sunday as notification of the victim’s next of kin was pending.
Mendez and two other occupants of the Dodge were transported to a local hospital. Records from the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office show Mendez was booked into custody shortly after midnight on Sunday morning. He was still in custody as of 9 p.m. Sunday.
The condition of the other two Dodge occupants was not available as of press time. More information will likely be available Monday after USBP submits information to the U.S. Attorney’s Office concerning the two persons who bailed out of the Dodge at the beginning of the pursuit.