Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded Sunday morning to the report of a gunshot victim in a vehicle on farmland north of 5605 Halls Ferry Road outside of Independence.
Initial information indicated the victim was unconscious. However when deputies arrived, they found the male deceased with indications that death had occurred hours earlier.
The victim, identified as 19 year old Genaro Hernandez Mendoza of West Salem, died of a gunshot wound while driving a farm truck through the fields belonging to the farm.
Investigators determined that Hernandez Mendoza and the farm truck were connected to an overnight burglary and theft at 1010 Independence Hwy, discovered earlier that morning. Among other items, several firearms were stolen from the residence at that location.
It was determined that Hernandez Mendoza had entered the house on Independence Hwy and stolen several items. He then left the scene on foot to hide the stolen property before returning in a stolen farm truck. He entered the home a second time, taking more items including a rifle and shotgun. The evidence showed that while Hernandez Mendoza was driving away from the scene, a weapon in the truck discharged, wounding him fatally.
Sheriff Bob Wolfe stated that while the investigation would continue in order to determine if anyone else was involved in the burglaries, it seemed clear that the death of Mr. Hernandez Mendoza was accidental and was the result of failing to safely store the weapons being transported.