Mendoza, 21, had last been seen at the prison before 6 p.m. Wednesday and reported missing after 9:30 p.m. that evening. A prison spokesman said he fled from a work assignment outside the prison walls.
Mendoza is believed to have carjacked a victim in a Home Depot parking lot in the San Rafael area less than a mile from the prison after 9 p.m., fleeing in a silver Toyota RAV4, which was found abandoned off the 101 Freeway north of Paso Robles on Friday.
A man with a similar physical description to Mendoza, who was last seen wearing a white T-shirt and khaki or light-yellow pants, motioned to the victim as if he had a weapon or gun under his shirt. He threatened to kill her and demanded her car keys. The victim was not injured, police said.
According to CDCR, Mendoza was transported to Salinas Valley State Prison following his arrest, and his case will be referred to the Marin County District Attorney’s office for consideration of escape charges and carjacking.
Authorities transferred Mendoza to San Quentin in April from Los Angeles County to serve a five-year sentence for use of a deadly weapon during a carjacking and evading or attempting to evade a police officer while driving recklessly.
Walk-aways by inmates outside of secure areas are not unusual, and most are quickly apprehended without incident. Far more uncommon are escapes from walled or fenced prisons, like Michael Garrett's escape in January from the California Institution for Men in Chino, east of Los Angeles.