Shortly before 10:00 am on Sunday March 3, 2013 Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the report of a gunshot victim in a vehicle on farmland north of 5605 Halls Ferry RD outside of Independence.
Initial information indicated the victim was unconscious, however when deputies arrived on scene at approximately 10:08 am they found the male subject to be deceased with indications that death had occurred well before the reporting party discovered the vehicle.
The victim identified as 19 year old Genaro Hernandez Mendoza, most recently of West Salem but with ties to Independence, died of an apparent gunshot wound while driving a farm truck through the fields belonging to the farm located at the given address.
Investigators determined that Hernandez Mendoza and the involved farm truck were connected to an overnight burglary and theft at 1010 Independence Hwy, discovered earlier that morning. Among other items, several firearms were stolen from the residence at that location.
It was determined that Hernandez Mendoza had entered the house on Independence Hwy and stolen several items. He then left the scene on foot to hide the stolen property before returning in a stolen farm truck. He entered the home a second time, taking more items including a rifle and shotgun.
The evidence showed that while Hernandez Mendoza was driving away from the scene he was the victim of an accidental, self inflicted gun shot wound from the rifle he had just taken from 1010 Independence Hwy.
Sheriff Bob Wolfe stated that while the investigation would continue in order to absolutely eliminate the possibility of other parties being involved with the burglary, it seemed clear that the death of Mr. Hernandez Mendoza was accidental and the result of failing to make safe the stolen weapons being transported.