Prison Error Nearly Killed Innocent Man

     LAS CRUCES, N.M. (CN) — An accused first-degree murderer abused the trustee status that New Mexico never should have given him to whack a county worker on the head with a pickaxe and escape in a county truck, the injured man claims in a lawsuit against the prison.
     Leroy Manzanares says the Roosevelt County Adult Detention Center never should have given Senovio Mendoza Jr. trustee privileges and let him leave the prison on a work detail. The prison didn’t even inform him that Mendoza was an accused murderer with a long criminal history, Manzanares says, and on July 2, 2014 Mendoza brained him with a pickaxe, duct-taped him and sped off in a county truck.
     Mendoza then led Texas police and Roosevelt County Sheriff’s officers on a high-speed chase before being captured in Sudan, Texas.
     Mendoza pleaded guilty in August 2015 to kidnapping, armed robbery and escape and was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
     Manzanares says in the July 1 lawsuit that Mendoza had recently been transferred from detention in Eddy County, which he sued too, as well as Roosevelt County.
     Mendoza’s 10-year criminal rap sheet included armed robber, felon in possession of a firearm, aggravated battery and three separate habitual-offender counts, Manzanares says in the complaint.
     Nonetheless, the prison put Mendoza on a work detail, whereupon Mendoza “obtained a pickax and violently struck Mr. Manzanares in the head, instantly knocking him unconscious. Inmate Mendoza then duck taped Mr. Manzanares and left him for dead as he sped away in a Roosevelt County vehicle assigned to Mr. Manzanares for work purposes.”
     Mendoza was not qualified to be a trustee or for a work detail, the complaint states, as to earn trustee status “the inmate must be determined to not be a threat to society.”
     Manzanares seeks medical expenses and punitive damages for negligence and vicarious liability.
     He is represented by Joseph Zebas of Hobbs, who could not be reached for comment by phone over the Fourth of July weekend. Nor could the prison or counties.

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