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Warrant issued for Texas man charged for deaths of two Grand Forks teens

Court documents allege that Valentin Mendoza IV, 20, told his girlfriend he intended to kill himself three minutes before swerving into oncoming traffic and killing two Grand Forks teenagers. Mendoza's location is not currently known, and a nationwide warrant has been issued for his arrest.

VALENTIN MENDOZA mug.jpg
Valentin Mendoza IV in August 2021. Contributed / Grand Forks County Corrections
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GRAND FORKS -- Police are searching for a Texas man who has been charged for the deaths of two Grand Forks teenagers earlier this year.

According to charging documents, Valentin Mendoza IV, 20, told his girlfriend he intended to kill himself about three minutes before he drove head-on into a vehicle in Polk County in June, killing the two boys inside.

Mendoza, of Crystal City, Texas, now is charged with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide. A nationwide warrant has been issued for his arrest, and East Grand Forks Police Chief Michael Hedlund said that as of Monday afternoon, Oct. 25, Mendoza is not in custody anywhere.

Very little is known at this time about Mendoza's possible location, Hedlund said, noting that the nationwide warrant is "significant."

"(Nationwide warrants) certainly are not a common thing," he said. "But we don’t have crimes to that level either very (often)."

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According to charging documents, police were dispatched to a two-vehicle collision one mile north of East Grand Forks on County Road 220 at 3:08 a.m. on June 17. Upon arriving at the scene, officers found Mendoza's 2004 Ford Ranger pickup tipped on its side with the speedometer locked at 75 mph, although the speed limit on that stretch of road is 45 mph. At some point, Mendoza had been able to climb out of the vehicle, and he was transported to Altru Hospital with life-threatening injuries, according to a Minnesota State Patrol report.

Officers also found a 2007 GMC Envoy with severe damage on the front driver's side and the speedometer locked at 65 mph. The driver, later identified as Ethan David Carsen, 17, of Grand Forks, had severe injuries, according to court documents, and his passenger, 16-year-old Damien Powell of Grand Forks, did not appear to be breathing. Both boys were transported to Altru.

Powell was removed from life support and died on June 23, and Carsen died on June 27.

Mendoza's mother told investigators that he recently had been released from prison, and although he had bipolar disorder and a history of making suicidal comments she was not aware of any he had made recently, according to court documents.

Documents also state that Mendoza's girlfriend told investigators that he sent her a message via the Snapchat social media app at 3:05 a.m. indicating that he planned to kill himself. It was three minutes before police were dispatched to the collision.

An investigation later showed that Mendoza crossed over the center line before striking the GMC Envoy. There were no brake marks leading up to the scene of the crash. The Herald previously reported that both boys were wearing seatbelts, while Mendoza was not.

The Polk County State's Attorney's Office did not return a call seeking comment on Monday afternoon, Oct. 25.

Related Topics: CRIME AND COURTSPOLK COUNTY
Hannah Shirley covers crime, courts and criminal justice for the Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2018 graduate of the University of Idaho and has lived and worked in Grand Forks since 2019. Prior to moving to North Dakota, she worked as a reporter for the Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass., a receptionist for the Moscow-Pullman Daily News in Moscow, Idaho, and a barista in a New York City coffee shop. She can be reached by phone at (701) 780-1267 or by email at hshirley@gfherald.com.
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