Suspect arrested in Plaza assault

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 18, 2001

Richard Russell, 25, of Minneapolis, has been arrested in connection with an assault in the Downtown Plaza parking lot last Thursday.

Monday, June 18, 2001

Richard Russell, 25, of Minneapolis, has been arrested in connection with an assault in the Downtown Plaza parking lot last Thursday.

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According to an Austin Police Department report, Lt. Matt Holten was on routine patrol in the downtown area at 2:15 a.m. Friday, when he spotted a crowd around a man lying on the ground in the Downtown Plaza parking lot.

A group of Hispanics were gathered around the man on the ground and none spoke English. Holten spotted one of them, who appeared to have injuries on his face, and the man identified the victim as Seterino Mendoza, 30 with no address.

Mendoza was taken to Austin Medical Center’s emergency room by a Gold Cross Ambulance Service crew and transferred to St. Marys Hospital at Rochester. He is being treated for a skull fracture and fractures of the left eye orbit and nasal passage.

The other injured party suffered minor injuries and was treated and released from AMC.

With the assistance of an interpreter, police learned two African-American males were the suspects in the beating. The pair were seen running near Steve’s Pizza and one was spotted entering a room at the Downtown Motel.

When offices went to the Downtown Motel to investigate, they went to Room 59 occupied by females. The officers spotted a jacket which witnesses said was warn by one of the attackers in the Downtown Plaza assault.

Inside the jacket pocket, they discovered a wallet identifying the owner.

The females in the room refused to say who owned the jacket or where he was hiding.

In plain sight of officers, empty baggies, containing the residue of a substance believed to be marijuana and boxes of baggies used to distribute marijuana, were discovered.

After originally pursuing, two African-American suspects, police arrested Russell and charged him with third degree assault and giving false information to a police officer.

When stopped by police, Russell originally told investigators his name was "Jason Wilson," which proved to be incorrect.

The suspect said he visited the Brown Derby Bar Thursday night and was verbally harassed by a group of Hispanic males.

When he left the bar and went to the Hey, Rube! bar, the same group of Hispanics arrived and continued to harass him.

When Russell stepped outside the bar, the Hispanics followed and continued to harass them.

Russell said he threw a single punch at one of the Hispanic males and then left the area. He said two other African-American males were last seen beating the man identified as Mendoza.

In a second incident last Wednesday evening, Officer Kurt Zehnder was en route to a report of a domestic argument, when a man driving an older green pickup truck ran a stop sign in front of the policeman.

Zehnder pursued the pickup truck along Fourth Street SW and into residential neighborhoods near St. Mark’s Lutheran Home.

After failing to elude the officer, the pickup truck driver stopped his vehicle and threw a can of pop at the officer and ran off into the night.

The officer went to the pickup truck and discovered in plain sight a bag containing 7.1 pounds of marijuana and $4,215.

The vehicle was traced to a man, who told investigators he sold the vehicle recently and identified the purchaser.

Police seized the marijuana, cash and vehicle and are today searching for the owner, who faces felony drug charges among others including fleeing a police officer.

Detective Stiehm estimated the street value of the marijuana in excess of $10,000 at the rate of $1,500 for a pound.

Call Lee Bonorden at 434-2232 or email him at