weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Police say suspect in roommate’s death first said victim took own life

A man accused of killing his roommate initially told Las Vegas police that his roommate had shot himself, according to an arrest report.

Jesus Mendoza-Zarate, 24, was arrested Monday afternoon on suspicion of open murder in connection to his roommate’s death, the Metropolitan Police Department report said.

Mendoza-Zarate called police Monday morning at around 5:45 a.m. and told dispatch that his friend had shot himself, the report said. When police officers got to the converted garage apartment on the 3500 block of San Francisco Avenue, they found Mendoza-Zarate’s roommate, 22-year-old Jesus Hernandez-Castro, with a gunshot wound to the neck and a possible injury to the face.

Police said officers at the scene decided that the case warranted further investigation by the homicide section, and detectives brought Mendoza-Zarate to Metro police headquarters for questioning.

Mendoza-Zarate first told police that he woke up after a night of drinking with Hernandez-Castro to find him lying on the floor with the firearm next to his head, according to the arrest report. He told officers that he grabbed the gun, took out the magazine, cleared the gun and threw both the gun and magazine across the room before calling 911, the report said.

Detectives, however, cited inconsistencies in the suspect’s story, including injuries Mendoza-Zarate had to his elbows, shoulder and back, and what looked like blood on his clothing, hands and arms, but no injuries to his face, the report said.

Mendoza-Zarate then changed his story, the arrest report said.

He told police that he and Hernandez-Castro had an argument that escalated into a physical struggle after he tried to go to bed. He said the struggle continued to escalate until the two were struggling over Mendoza-Zarate’s gun until he said he heard a gunshot and Hernandez-Castro fell to the floor, according to the report.

Mendoza-Zarate told police that he threw the gun and magazine across the room and then waited an hour to call 911, police said. When asked why he waited to call, Mendoza-Zarate said he was scared. He gave the same reason for why he initially lied about Hernandez-Castro’s death, police said

“Throughout the interview Mendoza repeatedly lied about the altercation until detectives confronted him after each lie,” police stated in the arrest report. “He would then change his story, including claiming that Hernandez was cursing at him after being shot, which Mendoza admitted was false after detectives confronted him.”

The Clark County coroner’s office has ruled Hernandez-Castro’s manner of death was a homicide.

Mendoza-Zarate is due in court on Thursday.

Contact Mark Credico at mcredico@reviewjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCredicoII. Review-Journal staff writer Jeff Burbank contributed to this report.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.