MODESTO — A Waterford man accused of shooting at a Ceres police officer and firing at officers trying to apprehend him two days later in Keyes was sentenced to 25 years in prison Tuesday afternoon, as part of a last-minute plea deal.
Jorge Alberto Mendoza, 28, pleaded no contest to one count of assault with a semiautomatic firearm on a police officer in connection with the Ceres officer shooting. The defendant also was convicted of an enhancement of using a gun in the crime.
The Stanislaus County District Attorneys Office agreed to drop one count of attempted murder, six counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm on a police officer and two counts of being a convicted felon in possession of a gun.
Mendozas trial, which was expected to last about three weeks, was scheduled to start Tuesday morning with jury selection. Richard Meyer, Mendozas defense attorney, negotiated with prosecutors through the morning as they finalized the plea deal.
Authorities say Mendoza shot twice at Ceres police Officer Brian Peterson on Feb. 2, 2011, before running from the parking lot of an AM-PM mini-mart at Service and Mitchell roads. The officer was not hit.
Ceres police have said Peterson was conducting a pat-down search of Mendoza when a struggle ensued. Mendoza escaped, police said, and shot at the officer but missed.
A manhunt for Mendoza ended Feb. 4, 2011, at a house on Geer Road in Keyes, where investigators learned Mendoza might be, though he did not live there.
Detectives from the Ceres, Modesto and Turlock police departments, along with investigators from the District Attorneys Office, went to the home. Stanislaus County Sheriffs Department officials said at the time that the investigators called for backup, but that before it arrived, Mendoza came out of the home and fired a gun at the officers, who returned fire.
Mendoza went back into the house; authorities cordoned off the area and called in SWAT teams from the Sheriffs Department and Turlock police to negotiate with him. Mendoza had a cellphone and called 911, telling dispatchers he had been shot and wanted to give up, officials said.
A short while later, Mendoza surrendered. Authorities said Mendoza was hit by a single bullet in the abdomen after firing at the officers who had surrounded the home.
On Tuesday, Deputy District Attorney Meghan Greerty said in court that Mendoza is eligible to be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison if he is convicted of another similar violent offense under Californias three-strikes law.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova told the defendant he has to serve 85 percent of his sentence before he can be eligible for parole. Mendoza will have to serve four years of parole, and cannot possess guns or ammunition for the rest of his life.
A group of potential jurors was waiting in the jury assembly room Tuesday as the defendant entered his new plea. Judge Córdova said in court that he was going down to the assembly room to thank the would-be jurors for their service.