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Man charged in mall, cemetery shootings now threatening witnesses, police say

By Pat Reavy, KSL | Posted - Dec. 20, 2019 at 8:22 a.m.



WEST JORDAN — A man accused of participating in a shooting at the Fashion Place mall and also trying to kill people in a shooting at a cemetery now faces even more charges after police say he threatened witnesses who are testifying against him.

Jesus Joshua “Cyko” Payan-Mendoza, 20, of Heber City, was charged Thursday with two counts of witness tampering, a second-degree felony.

On Jan. 6, multiple gang members were at the Taylorsville Memorial Cemetery, 1635 Gumwood Ave., gathered around the grave of a 17-year-old fellow gang member who was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2017.

Mendoza and another man drove to the cemetery, got out of their car and fired six rounds at the group at the gravesite, police said. Mendoza later bragged about the shooting at the cemetery because “he believed he killed someone because he shot at them from so close,” according to charging documents.

No one was injured in that shooting, but Mendoza was charged with attempted murder, a first-degree felony, as well as six counts of discharge of a firearm, a second-degree felony.

On Jan. 13, one week after the cemetery shooting, a man and woman were shot just outside an entrance of Fashion Place mall, 6191 S. State. Police say seven members of one gang confronted four members of a rival gang.

Mendoza was charged in that case with causing a riot, a third-degree felony.

A preliminary hearing was held in 3rd District Court in the cemetery shooting case on Dec. 12.

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Several hours after that hearing, Mendoza made a post on his Snapchat account stating, “It’s always the closet (people) to you that will take the stand against you,” according to his new charges, The post included audio clips of two witnesses who testified during the hearing, the charges state. The recordings are of the witnesses stating their name for the court.

Police do not know where the recordings came from. It is illegal to record court proceedings in Utah without prior approval from the judge, and typically only the media is allowed to record under certain circumstances. Investigators are not aware of any permission given for that hearing to be recorded, the charges state.

Both the witnesses and Mendoza were high ranking members in their gang. But the two witnesses “have since stopped associating with the gang after the investigation into a shooting at the Fashion Place mall,” according to charging documents.

Investigators believe Mendoza is “green lighting” the witnesses on his social media account, informing others that the two are testifying against him. A person who is “green lit” could be assaulted or even killed by other gang members, according to court documents.

Prosecutors say it is a way for gang members to intimidate others into not cooperating with law enforcement.

Prosecutors have requested that Mendoza’s current bail be revoked and that he be held without bail.

“In this case, the defendant intentionally put these witnesses’ names out on social media for fellow gang members to see and take violent action against these witnesses. Additionally, he put these messages out to intimidate, harass and tamper with the state’s witnesses,” prosecutors wrote in a motion to have bail revoked.

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