On Aug. 22, Jeremy Grindle took on an armed robbery investigation in which five masked teenagers ambushed a taxi cab driver at gunpoint.
Two days later, Grindle was at the jail when he overheard patrol officers talking about the Gainesville Police Department arresting some young men after a similar case.
That led Grindle to two teenage brothers, two guns and two similar armed robbery reports in five days with the same M.O.
Emmanuel Mendoza, 14, appeared in Magistrate Court Friday, Sept. 30, with his attorney Katherine Knudsen before Judge Elizabeth Reisman for an armed robbery charge. Mendoza’s 16-year-old brother, Ismael Mendoza, had his charges bound over to Superior Court earlier this month.
Grindle, who works for the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, testified Friday about an Aug. 19 armed robbery on Floyd Road.
The victim, a cab driver, told authorities he received a call from dispatch to pick up a fare in the 1600 block of Floyd Road.
“When he arrives on the scene, he describes them as five young Hispanic males between the ages of 15 and 18 jump out (from) behind some trees, all of them armed with firearms,” Grindle said.
The victim told authorities the suspects pointed guns at him and told him to give them money “or they were going to kill him,” Grindle said.
The taxi driver turned over his wallet, which the suspects emptied and returned to him before dispersing.
On Aug. 24, Grindle overheard the conversation about Gainesville Police arresting some young Hispanic men after an armed robbery report involving a taxi driver.
Gainesville High went on lockdown Aug. 24 after the report of another taxi driver armed robbery in the Lee Street area.
Knowing it fit the description of the Floyd Road armed robbery, Grindle went to the Gainesville Police Department and was able to interview the Mendozas and a third person.
Emmanuel Mendoza told Grindle he and his brother were in the parking lot of the high school. When approached by security, the brothers ran and ended up at a friend’s house nearby, Grindle said.
The friend called a cab driver using an Internet phone number, which was the same method for the Floyd Road case.
The friend told Grindle that Ismael had an AR-15 and Emmanuel had a pistol, but he himself was unarmed.
Seeing the teenagers with the firearms, the cab driver fled.
“Emmanuel’s brother, Ismael, fires three rounds at the taxi cab driver, and the taxi (driver) gets away,” Grindle said.
Across the street in the strip mall, someone hears the gunshots and starts videotaping the incident, where the Mendozas and the friend come out of the friend’s house and start running.
Law enforcement caught all three of them near the scene.
Ismael had an AR-15 in his backpack, and Emmanuel had a pistol in his jacket pocket, Grindle said.
The friend told Grindle he had no involvement in the Floyd Road case.
Emmanuel’s version of events was similar to the friend’s story except that they did not have the guns with them at Gainesville High School, saying that they found them in an abandoned house on the way to the friend’s house.
Emmanuel shut down talking with Grindle when the investigator mentions the Floyd Road robbery, the investigator testified.
Ismael told Grindle they did have the firearms at GHS and that they did try to rob the taxi cab driver near the school.
Grindle asked him about firing the rounds at the taxi cab, which Ismael said was an accident.
“He did not realize that the gun was off safety,” Grindle
Emmanuel Mendoza was being assisted by a Spanish interpreter for more than 10 minutes during the hearing.
Knudsen clarified with the investigator that her client never admitted to being involved in the Floyd Road incident.
“When you were questioning him, were you questioning him with an interpreter?” Knudsen asked.
“No, he speaks perfect English,” Grindle said, a fact that was news to the interpreter assisting Mendoza at the hearing.
The interpreter asked Mendoza if he needed her help, to which he said no.
Ismael told Grindle he and his brother were part of the Floyd Road armed robbery, but their friend was not.
Ismael told authorities the suspects, who he would not identify, split roughly $1,500 taken from the cab driver.
The cab driver told Grindle he could not identify any of the suspects.
Beyond the statements from Ismael and the Mendozas’ friend, Grindle said the evidence showed the Mendozas live roughly a half mile from Floyd Road.
Neither side offered any argument following Grindle’s testimony, and Reisman moved the case as charged on to Superior Court.
The Times reached out to Knudsen for comment following the hearing, but that request was not returned.