Prison inmate who walked away from San Quentin is caught

Authorities are searching for Shalom Mendoza, 24, an inmate who "walked away" from San Quentin prison. Photo: CDC

After leading California authorities on nearly a four-day manhunt, the inmate who escaped San Quentin State Prison on Wednesday was captured in Paso Robles at a fast food restaurant on Saturday. 

Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said they took Shalom Mendoza, 21, into custody without incident and transported him to the Salinas Valley State Prison. Authorities were alerted by a resident who spotted Mendoza at a Taco Bell more than 200 miles southeast of the Marin County facility.

Prison officials said Mendoza fled a work assignment outside of prison walls on Wednesday and he was reported missing just after 9:30 p.m.

San Rafael police confirmed Mendoza is also responsible for carjacking a woman at a Home Depot near the prison before heading south. They had said a man with a description similar to Mendoza motioned to the victim as if he had a weapon before he threatened to kill her and demanded her car keys. 

The Toyota RAV4 Mendoza stole was captured on surveillance crossing the I-80 Bay Bridge Toll Plaza headed towards San Francisco 15 minutes after the carjacking. It went undetected until authorities found it on the shoulder of southbound U.S. Highway 101 just north of Paso Robles. 

Mendoza arrived at San Quentin in April and was assigned to a minimum-security inmate work crew in May, authorities said. Mendoza lived in a dormitory behind a security fence, but he was with a work crew outside the prison fence when he walked away, officials said.

San Quentin is California's oldest prison, opening in 1852, and houses more than 4,100 inmates, including those on death row.

It isn't unusual for inmates outside secure areas to walk away, and most are quickly caught. Far more uncommon are escapes from walled or fenced prisons.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.