Costa Mesa man to serve 36 years for firing on DOJ agents executing search warrant

A unit of a business complex at 1760 Monrovia Avenue in Costa Mesa was in disarray.
A unit of a business complex at 1760 Monrovia Avenue in Costa Mesa was in disarray following an October 5, 2022, standoff that lasted more than eight hours.
(Zach Korhonen)

A 51-year-old Costa Mesa man was sentenced Tuesday to more than 36 years in prison for firing on officers attempting to execute a search warrant at a business in 2022.

Luis Mendez Jr. was convicted April 24 of attempted voluntary manslaughter, assault with a gun on peace officers, resisting arrest, possession of a gun with a misdemeanor conviction and possessing ammunition when not legally allowed to and possession of a short barreled shotgun or rifle, all felonies.

Jurors also found true sentencing enhancements for firing a gun but were deadlocked on a count of assault with a firearm on a peace officer with a sentencing enhancement for firing a gun, a charge dismissed by prosecutors Tuesday.

Officers were helping DOJ agents serve a warrant on Monrovia Avenue in 2022, when an armed man barricaded himself inside.
Costa Mesa police officers were helping the Department of Justice serve a warrant at a Monrovia Avenue business in 2022, when an armed man barricaded himself inside in what would become an eight-hour standoff.
(File Photo)

Mendez was sentenced to 36 years and four months in prison. He was given credit for 692 days behind bars.

On Sept. 8, 2022, special agents from the state Attorney General’s Office were attempting to question the defendant about guns registered to him at his home and business at 1760 Monrovia, according to prosecutors.

When they were unsuccessful, the special agents returned Oct. 5 at about 11 a.m. to serve a search warrant to seize the registered guns that he wasn’t allowed to possess because of a 2017 domestic violence conviction, prosecutors said.

When Mendez did not respond to announcements from police they attempted to knock down the door, prompting the defendant to open fire with a rifle, prosecutors said.

That led to a standoff that lasted about nine hours. Costa Mesa police assisted the state police officers, and using a drone they were able to determine he had a long gun, prosecutors said.

Mendez shot at the garage door and at a drone, prosecutors said. Ultimately, the defendant surrendered and police found in his home two handguns, ammunition, loaded magazines, including some for high-capacity rifle magazines, a .308 rifle, and a Remington pump shotgun with a 13-inch barrel length, prosecutors said.

Witnesses said the defendant believed he was a direct descendant of Christ, was distrustful of the government and prone to mood swings.

Feb. 7, 2023

The defendant testified at trial that he did not know the agents were police and fired a warning shot and at the drones, according to court records. Prosecutors argued for a maximum sentence of 38 years in prison.

Special Agent Michael Wyatt said in a victim impact statement that the defendant “used multiple long guns, including an illegal short-barrel shotgun, to shoot at uniformed” officers.

“Mr. Mendez is a prime example of a person who should not be allowed to walk free,” Wyatt said. “The attack on law enforcement needs to end. It is time to hold Mr. Mendez accountable for his actions.”

Special Agent Patrick Estrada said Mendez “made it clear he was not going to give up his precious guns.”

“And look what he did with them,” Estrada added. “He chose to fire those weapons at DOJ agents. Even after more than an hour he still chose to fire his guns knowing the police were outside. He never called 911 to say someone was breaking in. He never called 911 to ask for help. He never yelled out to us after we gave commands over a PA system announcing it was the police.

“Instead, after knowing it was the police, he chose to take cover and fire his guns at us.”