After an Uber driver dropped a customer off on Arcola Trail North in May Township early morning June 9, he spotted what he thought was a dead animal in the road.

Instead, the driver found a 39-year-old woman from St. Paul with a gunshot wound to the chest, according to the criminal complaint.

The Washington County Attorneys Office charged two men this week in connection with a crime authorities believe to be gang-related.

Luis Alfredo Cortez Mendoza, 23, of St. Paul, Minn., was charged with attempted first degree and second degree murder for the benefit of a gang as well as kidnapping for the benefit of a gang. Officers arrested the second suspect, Angel Ignacio Sardina-Padilla, 32, of Minneapolis, Minn., on Tuesday, June 18. According to a Washington County Sheriff’s Office press release, Sardina-Padilla will be charged with aiding and abetting first and second degree murder for the benefit of a gang as well as aiding and abetting kidnapping for the benefit of a gang.

Bail for both Cortez Mendoza and Sardina-Padilla was set at $2 million.

According to the criminal complaint, deputies responded to a call of a woman found in the middle of the road near Saint Croix Trail North and 124th Street North at 2:38 a.m. on June 9 in May Township.

When the victim told the Uber driver she was shot, he tried to dial 911 but he didn’t have cell service. The driver put the victim in the back seat of his vehicle and drove until he got a cell signal. He pulled over per the 911 operator’s request and later flagged down a sheriff’s deputy, the complaint states.

According to the complaint, the victim was barely conscious but told the deputy a man named Luis shot her.

The victim was transported to Regions Hospital in critical condition where she underwent surgery, the complaint states. It took several days to get a statement from the victim as she drifted in and out of consciousness, the complaint states.

According to the criminal complaint, the woman said she purchased a firearm from Sardina-Padilla for $400. She paid him $300 and told him to return for the remaining payment. When she woke up the next morning, the gun was missing from her nightstand, the complaint states, and the victim texted Sardina-Padilla to explain.

The victim and two others were in the apartment June 8 when Sardina-Padilla and Cortez Mendoza returned with guns, demanding money or return of the firearm, the complaint states.

According to the complaint, Sardina-Padilla heated a metal tool over the stove and forced the others to hold the scalding metal while he demanded to know the location of the gun. When the woman refused Sardina-Padilla’s order to hold the metal, he forced her to leave with him and Cortez Mendoza, according to the complaint.

Sardina-Padilla and Cortez Mendoza drove the victim around all day. According to the complaint, the woman told officers the men gave her a pill that made her fall asleep and when she woke up, it was pitch black outside.

Cortez Mendoza drove the victim north of Stillwater where he ordered her to get out of the car and shot at her three times, the complaint states. One bullet struck the victim’s right breast, according to the criminal complaint.

When officers arrested Cortez Mendoza June 15, he admitted he and Sardina-Padilla are Sureño 13 gang members, the complaint states.

According to the complaint, Cortez Mendoza told officers Sardina-Padilla gave him a gun and ordered him to kill the victim. Cortez Mendoza also told officers he worried if he did not kill the victim, he would be killed himself. Sardina-Padilla and the gang later branded Cortez Mendoza with a “13” tattoo, according to the complaint.

The maximum sentences for attempted and aiding first degree murder is life in prison. Mendoza’s next court hearing is set for Monday, June 24 at 9 a.m. Sardina-Padilla’s court hearing is set for Thursday, Aug. 15.

Contact Kim Schneider at kim.schneider@ecm-inc.com

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