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Waukegan man admits he tampered with women’s tires: cops

Jose M. Mendez  |  Waukegan Police photo

Jose M. Mendez | Waukegan Police photo

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A 31-year-old north suburban man suspected of letting the air out of the tires of women’s vehicles, then following them and offering to help change their tires, turned himself in to police on Thursday.

About 7:30 a.m. Thursday, Jose M. Mendez turned himself in at the Waukegan Police Department after seeing photos of his white pickup on several media outlets, a statement from Waukegan Police said.

During interviews with police, Mendez allegedly admitted to the two documented reports, plus three or four similar incidents that were not reported to police, the statement said.

Both of the reported cases took place in the parking lot of the Target near Lewis Avenue and Yorkhouse Road in Waukegan, where women reported tampering with valve stems of rear tires, police said.

On July 10, a woman called to say she had a flat tire in Zion at Sheridan Road and 28th Street, and a Hispanic man in a white work truck offered to help her fix it. She said the man had been following her since she left the Target parking lot.

Waukegan Police said they received a second complaint from a victim who had seen a Facebook posting about the first incident. She told police that on June 12, a man in a white pickup helped her change a flat. Her car was still parked in the Target lot when the tire went flat, she said. The man offered to help her fix the flat tire, and then did so before driving away.

On Wednesday, police released a photograph of the white truck after finding it on a security camera. That led Mendez to turn himself in, police said.

On Thursday, he admitted using a special tool to loosen the stem inside the valve on the tires on five or six occasions in June or July, according to police.

Mendez, of Waukegan, was charged with two counts of reckless conduct, police said. He was released on bond and was scheduled to return to court on Aug. 15.

Ron Colangelo, Zion’s public works director, who chronicled his daughter’s run-in with the white truck on Facebook, said they are delighted with the arrest.

“We’re happy,” he said of he and his daughter, Alexa, 20. “It was a whole lot of weird.”

“She’s happy and I’m happy they have someone in custody,” Colangelo said. “My daughter was able to identify him through a [photo] lineup.”

Colangelo said the suspect tampered with the valve stem of a tire so there was a slow leak, then offered to help change the tire. He still wonders what the motive was because Mendez told police he just wanted to help people.

“You can cause an accident or something from doing this,” Colangelo said. “These people didn’t need help until he messed with their cars.”

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