Suspected snowball fight shooter arrested

March 1, 2008 8:47:29 PM PST
Police have arrested the man wanted for the murder of a boy over a snowball fight. Authorities have been searching for 24-year-old Jose Mendez since last Sunday, when 15-year-old Teven Rutledge was shot in the head in Feltonville. Mendez was arrested just before noon Saturday at an apartment on Adams Avenue.

Mendez is behind bars right now at Philadelphia Police Headquarters, charged with killing a boy on his 15th birthday? all because of a snowball.

Lt. Mel Williams told the press on Saturday, "A highway patrol unit was flagged down by a concerned citizen, who said they believed that the male wanted for that homicide is inside this vacant apartment."

Only Action News was there when police closed in on Mendez. Police found him hiding out in a vacant apartment on the 6400 block of Adams Avenue.

Rutledge was shot as he sat outside of a friend's house last Sunday. Earlier he and his friends had been throwing snowballs at each other when one of them hit a passing pedestrian. That pedestrian has now been identified as Mendez.

He got into it verbally with Rutledge, and said he would be back. Police say he returned with a gun.

After the shooting a police SWAT team entered Mendez's house around the corner from the crime scene, but he wasn't there. They knew he had been there because of a food item he had just purchased at the corner store was on the table.

A city-wide manhunt followed, and police released a picture of Mendez a few days ago. A workman doing renovations at the apartment building recognized Mendez from that picture. He flagged down two highway patrol officers, who arrested Mendez without a struggle.

Officer Michael Moore says, "We gained entry into the residence. The male did try to flee into a bathroom, where he didn't really have nowhere to go and was apprehended."

Police say they received a tremendous amount of cooperation from the public in this case. As it turns out, it was an alert citizen who notified police, leading to the arrest of the suspect.

Police have not recovered the murder weapon yet, but sources say Mendez has been cooperative since he was brought to police headquarters.