Original Article – A special education teacher in Texas was arrested at the school where he works after being indicted for killing a man in 2021.
Matthew Jacob Mendoza, 25, stands accused of one count of murder for the death of Eric Hernandez, 24, according to the indictment handed up against him by an El Paso County grand jury earlier this month, a copy of which was obtained by local NBC affiliate KTSM.
In August 2021, the teacher, Hernandez, and a third man were drinking beers together at a place called Red Sands when the night took a violent turn, the court documents reportedly say.
Hernandez got aggressive and started hitting Mendoza’s hat for some reason, so the defendant and his friend left Mendoza there and went to go get food by themselves.
Then, as the night wore on, Hernandez kept needling Mendoza and his friend by sending them threatening text messages.
The two friends then made their way back to Mendoza’s home on Amstater Circle on the far eastern side of town.
Mendoza and his friend allegedly saw Hernandez approaching, the court documents say. An altercation ensued and Hernandez ended up unresponsive in the drive way. Police were called and he was taken to a hospital where he later succumbed to his injuries.
According to the El Paso Police Department, Mendoza acknowledged there was a fight between them that night – and had blood on both sides of his face.
At the time, a medical examiner determined the victim’s injuries from the fight were not fatal and his death was not found to be a homicide, so the EPPD dropped the case, according to local CBS affiliate KDBC.
According to the indictment, however, alleges that the fight took an unfair turn at some point: Hernandez was allegedly beaten with a steering wheel lock which ultimately caused him to die.
The defendant is currently being detained in the El Paso County Detention Facility on $75,000 bond.
According to the El Paso Independent School District website, Mendoza is currently listed as a “Special Education AIM Elementary” teacher at General Douglas MacArthur PK-8 school.
In comments to KBDC, EPISD spokesperson Pablo Villa said the “El Paso ISD administration will take appropriate employment action in adherence with district policy.”
A similar message was relayed in the following message sent to parents and obtained by various local media outlets in the border city:
“MacArthur community: We regret to inform you that this morning, El Paso ISD and MacArthur leadership were made aware that deputies with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office executed an active warrant against an employee of MacArthur PK-8 School. El Paso ISD is cooperating fully with the investigation. Until this morning, the current administration was unaware of any pending charges and/or allegations against this particular employee. We understand this information can be unsettling. Please rest assured that the MacArthur campus is safe, and we will continue to work to ensure the security of students and staff. In addition, El Paso ISD administration will take appropriate employment action in adherence with district policy.”