Suspected 'tree branch' robber due in court

A Buena Park man is due back in court Friday after being arrested for allegedly robbing an Irvine mini-mart where he threatened the clerk with a tree branch.

On Tuesday, Irvine police arrested Herlin Mendez, 29, on suspicion of wielding a 3-foot-long tree limb during a robbery Nov. 22 at a gas station market in the 4100 block of Trabuco Road. Police said he was one of two men involved in the crime.

Mendez pleaded not guilty to felony robbery and stealing a car Thursday and has a pre-trial hearing scheduled for Friday.

According to police, about 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 22, Mendez's accomplice, still unidentified and on the loose, walked into the gas station market pretending to be interested in buying tires. Mendez then walked in with the tree branch and threatened the clerk with it, ordering him to empty the cash register, Irvine police said.

The first man then emptied the register and Mendez stole packs of cigarettes, police said. They made off in a mini-van that police found when they arrested Mendez, authorities said. The tree branch was still in the car when Mendez was arrested, according to police.

Mendez is being held in Orange County's Theo Lacy Facility in lieu of $75,000 bail.

—Joseph Serna

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