Third hospitalized inmate released and back in Merced County jail

Johnnie Mendoza, 23, of Los Banos
Johnnie Mendoza, 23, of Los Banos

The inmate victim of the third jail attack in Merced County in recent weeks has been identified and released from the hospital, sheriff’s officials reported.

Ruben Escobedo Benavides, 41, from Merced, was attacked by another inmate in the Norteño dorm of the John Latorraca Correctional Facility on Wednesday during a clothing exchange, Deputy Daryl Allen said. Escobedo Benavides suffered non life-threatening stab wounds and is back in the county jail on Sandy Mush Road.

The primary suspect in the attack is Johnnie Mendoza, 23, from Los Banos. Mendoza initially was jailed on June 1 for on a suspected parole violation. He remains in custody without bail.

Escobedo Benavides was jailed Monday on suspicion of felony vandalism. He remains in custody on $50,000 bail.

The attack on Wednesday was the third attack at Merced County jail facilities in just over a week. So far, all three incidents are believed to be gang related. Many of the inmates involved are described by authorities as known Norteño street gang members. Investigators are working to determine whether the attacks are connected or random, Allen said.

In the first stabbing attack from last week, investigators are seeking attempted murder charges for the suspect and have sent the case over to the Merced County District Attorney’s Office. The two attacks from this week remain under investigation.

Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477