Is Law Enforcement Covering for Carlos Zapata’s Law-Enforcement Business Partner in Dog-Mauling Case? – anewscafe.com (2022)

Is Law Enforcement Covering for Carlos Zapata’s Law-Enforcement Business Partner in Dog-Mauling Case? – anewscafe.com (1)

Crossroads Baptist Church in Bella Vista. Photograph by Shawn Schwaller.

At 11 p.m. on Sept. 3, 2021, 20-year-old Taylor Merrick called 911 to report he’d found Ryder Klenk, his friend and roommate, severely injured and lying in a field on the Crossroads Baptist Church property in Bella Vista.

Bella Vista is a rural, sparsely populated unincorporated town 9 miles east of Redding off Highway 299.

Earlier in the day, then-18-year-old Klenk had parked his truck at the church parking lot before traveling with friends to a bar at the Silverthorn Resort at Lake Shasta. Klenk and his friends drank alcoholic beverages at the bar, despite being under the legal drinking age. Klenk became heavily intoxicated.

After Klenk failed to return home, Merrick called the friend Klenk had been with and was told that the friend had dropped Klenk off at his truck at the church parking lot around 9 p.m.

Merrick hung up and drove straight to the church, which is less than a mile from where he and Klenk lived. When Merrick arrived at the Crossroads Baptist Church, he spotted Klenk’s truck in the parking lot.

But as Merrick left his vehicle and was heading for Klenk’s truck, Merrick immediately heard “moaning” and “crying” coming from a field on the church property about 100 yards away from Klenk’s truck. Merrick followed the sounds until he found a bleeding, severely injured Klenk lying on the ground. Klenk was incoherent and barely conscious. His clothing was shredded.

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His body was covered literally head to foot in gaping gashes and wounds. Klenk’s knees were severely damaged, and one of his calf muscles was exposed.

Klenk had been lying in the field for more than an hour.

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The field at Crossroads Baptist Church where Taylor Merrick found his friend Ryder Klenk. Photograph by Shawn Schwaller.

After EMTs transported Klenk to Mercy Medical Center, hospital doctors and staff discovered a number of injuries other than the gashes and wounds, including a skull fracture, damage to his spine, and an air pocket in Klenk’s throat from a puncture wound. He required wound care for weeks, and was in so much pain when he was discharged from the hospital that he couldn’t stand or walk without assistance.

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He is mentally and physically scarred for life.

Although Klenk agreed to be interviewed by A News Café for this story, he declined to be quoted. Klenk granted A News Café permission and full access to his hospital medical records, and the Shasta County Sheriff’s office incident report about his case.


The sheriff’s office did not provide the incident report to A News Café upon a records request.

Klenk has little memory of what happened to him outside the church that night. He suffered an amnesic effect; the result of benzodiazepines given to him by Mercy Medical Center staff because of Klenk’s reportedly combative and agitated demeanor at the hospital, combined with the alcohol he’d consumed. The most he can remember is that he was attacked by one or more dogs, and that one of them was brown. He does not recall if anyone was present with the dogs.

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Photographs of Ryder Klenk after he was released from Mercy Medical Center. Photographs by Megan Wion.

Is Law Enforcement Covering for Carlos Zapata’s Law-Enforcement Business Partner in Dog-Mauling Case? – anewscafe.com (9)

Photographs of Ryder Klenk after he was released from Mercy Medical Center. Photographs by Megan Wion.

Conflicting accounts

The information received from the sheriff’s office following an A News Café records request says that Klenk was attacked by a “vicious animal”. When A News Café followed up later with the sheriff’s department employee who deals with public records requests, she said Klenk was “allegedly” attacked by a dog, or multiple dogs.

When A News Café asked if the sheriff’s department could release more than a short summary of what happened to Klenk, she said the sheriff’s office only releases the bare minimum of details required to release by law.

Was Klenk attacked by police K-9s?

In stark contrast to the paltry amount of information released by the sheriff’s office, the 50-page medical report produced during Klenk’s stay at Mercy Medical Center reiterates several times that Klenk was attacked by a “dog” or “multiple dogs”. The medical report was even more specific, and said that Klenk was attacked by law enforcement dogs that had been vaccinated for rabies. Based upon that information, medical staff ceased Klenk’s rabies treatments.

The medical report also says that medical staff were told by a law enforcement official that Klenk was on the property of someone who trains police dogs, something never corroborated in the sheriff’s office incident report.

Shasta County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Pickle was the only law enforcement official who said in the incident report that he spoke with Klenk and the medical staff at the hospital. Pickle said Klenk was agitated, and when asked if he could recall anything, Klenk shouted, “the fucking dogs.”

Pickle also said he expressed the belief to the medical staff that Klenk was attacked by a dog or multiple dogs but did not report that he told them the dogs were K-9s.

Pickle reportedly told members of Klenk’s family at the hospital that a law enforcement official lived adjacent to the church where Klenk was attacked, and had K-9s on his property.

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Statements on Klenk’s medical report from Mercy Medical Center which says he was attacked by K-9s (top and middle) and part of Deputy Pickle’s statement in the sheriff’s office report.

Merrick’s 911 call

According to Merrick, as he attempted to simultaneously help Klenk and speak with the 911 dispatcher on the phone, two men approached him and Klenk. Merrick shared with the operator that two men were attempting to get him and Klenk to leave the scene. The operator could also hear through Merrick’s phone men attempting to get Merrick and Klenk to leave.

Due to the fact that there were two individuals on the scene attempting to get Merrick and Klenk to leave, the sheriff’s office sent all available officers in Code 3 fashion, meaning officers responding were to activate emergency lights and sirens and proceed to the scene as quickly as possible.

After sheriff’s deputies arrived, Merrick reported to Shasta County Sheriff’s Deputy Martina Ducati, the individual in charge of the case, that one of the men who approached him and Klenk said, “the cops don’t need to be called” explaining that because Klenk was intoxicated, he’d get in trouble.

A News Café contacted Merrick for this story. He reiterated that the men repeatedly tried to get him and Klenk to leave, and that he told them he refused to do so.

“If I wouldn’t have said anything they probably would have carried him,” said Merrick.

Deputy Martina knew of a law enforcement official who lived a few hundred feet away in the direction from which the two men had come from one of the two residential properties that shares a fence line on that side of the church property. He showed Merrick a Facebook picture of Nathan Mendes, a California Department of Justice Special Agent who was also, at the time, working as an investigator for the Etna Police Department. Merrick said that Mendes looked like one of the subjects.

Martina attempted to contact Mendes at his residence that night, but Mendes did not answer his door. It was determined in an investigation the following day that one of the men who approached Merrick and Klenk was indeed Mendes. The other man was Brett Letendre, an agent with Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Merrick said that Mendes “was more quiet and he wore a hoodie and hat” which struck Merrick as an attempt to conceal his identity.

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Aerial image of the Crossroads Baptist Church property that shows where Klenk was found by Merrick in the field between the church and Dry Creek Road and where Klenk’s truck was parked. Source: Google

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Crossroads Baptist Church from the corner of Highway 299 and Dry Creek Road (top) and the church field and entrance as seen from Dry Creek Road. Photographs by Shawn Schwaller

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Crossroads Baptist Church parking lot where Klenk’s truck was parked. Photographs by Shawn Schwaller

Is Law Enforcement Covering for Carlos Zapata’s Law-Enforcement Business Partner in Dog-Mauling Case? – anewscafe.com (14)

Crossroads Baptist Church parking lot and driveway. Photographs by Shawn Schwaller

Nathan Mendes and Carlos Zapata: Marines, friends, business partners

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Nathan Mendes is well-known as the detective who arrested Jodi Arias after she murdered her boyfriend Travis Alexander in Mesa, Arizona. Arias had been living in Yreka with her grandparents. Mendes was featured in a three-part Investigation Discovery series, Jodi Arias: An American Murder Mystery.

Mendes is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Special Weapon and Tactics School.

In 2007, two separate civil suits accused Mendes of using excessive force while employed as a sheriff’s deputy in Lassen and Siskiyou County. One of the cases involved a wrongful death lawsuit where Mendes fired his weapon more than 30 times at an individual.

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Mendes is the owner of and head instructor at Combat Base Shasta-Mendes Jiu-Jitsu in Palo Cedro. He is friends with Carlos Zapata, the vocal alt-right extremist who holds a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Zapata is a founding co-owner of the Red, White and Blueprint organization, and is a member of the Cottonwood Militia. Mendes’ jiu-jitsu business was formerly owned by Zapata, then known as Zapata Jiu-Jitsu.

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The business logo for Zapata Jiu-Jitsu; Bottom Left: Carlos Zapata and Nathan Mendes posing in their jiu-jitsu outfits; Bottom Right: Advertisements for “women’s self-defense seminar” that features Carlos Zapata and Nathan Mendes. Source: Combat Base Shasta-Mendes Jiu-Jitsu.

Is Law Enforcement Covering for Carlos Zapata’s Law-Enforcement Business Partner in Dog-Mauling Case? – anewscafe.com (18)

Photographs of Nathan Mendes. Source: Combat Base Shasta-Mendes Jiu-Jitsu.

Is Law Enforcement Covering for Carlos Zapata’s Law-Enforcement Business Partner in Dog-Mauling Case? – anewscafe.com (19)

Combat Base Shasta-Mendes Jiu-Jitsu in Palo Cedro.

Is Law Enforcement Covering for Carlos Zapata’s Law-Enforcement Business Partner in Dog-Mauling Case? – anewscafe.com (20)

Photograph shows Nathan Mendes (third from right) and Brett Letendre (second from left) at Combat Bass Shasta-Mendes Jiu-Jitsu. Source: Combat Base Shasta-Mendes Jiu-Jitsu.

Mendes and Zapata both served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Mendes served for six years, deploying in Ar Ramadi and Iraq in 2004. As recently as last year, Mendes and Zapata co-owned the Players Club Tampa, a strip club in Tampa, Florida.

Is Law Enforcement Covering for Carlos Zapata’s Law-Enforcement Business Partner in Dog-Mauling Case? – anewscafe.com (21)

Online records show that the strip club is now owned by a Tampa-based entity known as Silver Mesa LLC. Zapata also owns The Palomino Room, a bar and restaurant in downtown Red Bluff that will reportedly soon be divided to house a cannabis dispensary.

Is Law Enforcement Covering for Carlos Zapata’s Law-Enforcement Business Partner in Dog-Mauling Case? – anewscafe.com (22)

Nathan Mendes (left) and Carlos Zapata (right) in their Marine Corps uniforms.

Is Law Enforcement Covering for Carlos Zapata’s Law-Enforcement Business Partner in Dog-Mauling Case? – anewscafe.com (23)

Documents shows that Nathan Mendes and Carlos Zapata owned the Players Club Tampa strip club together.

Zapata has used violent rhetoric over the last two years, and is known to boast about how he’s friends with North State law enforcement officials. In August of 2020, Zapata made the national news for threatening the Shasta County Board of Supervisors of a violent revolution if they did not refuse to enforce Covid-19 mandates even though they had no power to do so.

Mendes is the co-founder of the Law Enforcement Combative Course and teaches courses for it across the country.

In recent years Mendes and Zapata have taught combative courses for law enforcement officials on behalf of the California Narcotics Association. In 2018, Mendes was the chairman of the local chapter of the association. Letendre served as its treasurer. Newly appointed Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson served as executive advisor. At the time, Johnson was Chief of Police for the Anderson Police Department.

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Flyer advertising a California Narcotics Association combative courses taught by Nathan Mendes and Carlos Zapata. It also lists Mendes, Letendre, and Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson as member of the executive board.

Nathan Mendes’ account

Shasta County Sheriff’s Deputy Kody Bodner and two Shasta County Animal Regulations Officers visited Nathan Mendes at his home the day after Klenk was attacked. However, Bodner did not write his portion of the incident report until nearly two weeks later.

Bodner confirmed that Mendes owned two K-9s and an additional dog named Django. Bodner and the two AROs met Mendes at the front gate of his property. Mendes’ daughter brought Django to the gate for inspection. It appeared that Bodner and Mendes were well acquainted, referring to Mendes in the incident report as “Nate.”

Bodner said that the dog had a happy demeanor and was wagging its tail. Bodner reported that the dog was able to be petted without any signs of aggression toward him or the AROs.

“Django’s coat was dry, free of dirt and did not have any signs of blood evidence on him,” Bodner said. “He did not appear to be freshly groomed, but was well maintained.”

On that day, the temperatures hovered in the mid-90s.

It is unclear what qualified Bodner to inspect any dogs. Bodner did not include any statements from the AROs in the incident report.

Bodner said he also inspected Mendes’ two K-9s in their kennels. He reported they were in the same condition as “Django” and in clean kennels.

Mendes says he was ‘attempting to sleep’ when Klenk was attacked

Mendes told Bodner that he was at his residence with his friend Brett Letendre when Klenk was attacked, and that he had gone to bed. Mendes said his daughter walked into his room when he was “attempting to sleep” to tell him someone was down by the church and that Django was barking like crazy in their backyard toward the direction of the church.

Mendes said he and Letendre entered his backyard to investigate why Django was barking. He noticed the gate between his inner and outer yard was unlatched but retrieved Django and proceeded to check his property with Letendre. The dog, according to Mendes, did not appear as if it had been involved in some kind of attack.

While checking the property, Mendes said he saw Merrick standing in the field near the church and that he and Letendre approached Merrick. When Mendes and Letendre approached Merrick, they noticed he was tending to an injured Klenk lying on the ground. Mendes said he recognized the injuries to be dog-bite wounds.

Mendes later denied telling Merrick that he should not call 911, and that he and Klenk should leave. Mendes and Letendre did not identify themselves as law enforcement officials.

Mendes said he and Letendre attempted to help Klenk get on his feet, so he could move to his truck or the road to be more accessible for EMS, but that he was in too much pain to move.

Mendes told deputy Bodner that he and Letendre returned to his home without providing Klenk any further assistance for three reasons: emergency vehicles were on their way, because Klenk was with a friend, and because of the “odd circumstances” surrounding the incident.

Although Mendes referred to the situation as “odd,” he also said the incident was “typical” for activity in the church parking lot. A Crossroads Baptist Church official confirmed that people had been hanging out in their parking lot in the days leading up to Klenk’s attack. Klenk, however, had just parked his truck there that evening. After the attack suffered by Klenk, the church installed video cameras in the parking lot.

Mendes returns home and goes to sleep

Mendes told Deputy Bodner that he and Letendre then returned to Mendes’ home to sleep. Mendes also said he heard his dogs barking for a while after he returned home, but he did not think anything of it, and he did not remember seeing any EMS or law enforcement vehicles arrive. Mendes said he did not hear when deputies were trying to contact him at his residence because he was asleep.

A Facebook group page Redding Crime and Community Alert/Shasta County run by administrators who listen to scanner traffic and report on crimes in Shasta County posted an announcement about Merrick’s 911 call. The Facebook post said deputies were in route at 11:13 pm. It was updated to say deputies cleared the scene for medics to treat Klenk at 11:27 pm.

Matching these times with what Mendes told Bodner for the incident report would mean that Mendes returned to his home with Letendre and fell asleep within approximately 20 minutes of witnessing a severely inured Klenk in the field adjacent to his house.

Some particularly perplexing aspects of Mendes’ version of what happened included his claim that after seeing a severely injured Klenk lying in a field, Mendes left the teen, returned home, went back to bed, fell immediately asleep, and did not hear first responders arrive with their sirens blaring to the church field right next to his home.

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Redding Crime and Community Alert/Shasta County Facebook post regarding the attack on Klenk and a photo of the scene after EMS arrived taken from Dry Creek Road and shared on Facebook.

Brett Letendre’s account

Taylor Merrick, Nathan Mendes, and Brett Letendre were the only individuals who provided statements for the sheriff’s office incident report. Deputies did not seek statements from Mendes’ daughter, or other residents who lived in the vicinity of the church, or church officials.

Deputy Ducati did not get in touch with Letendre to obtain a statement until Oct. 2, nearly one month after the attack suffered by Klenk.

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Photographs of Brett Letendre. Source: Instagram.

Letendre’s statement said he was at Mendes’ house and that the two had been drinking. Letendre told a vastly different story than Mendes. While Mendes said his daughter entered his bedroom to tell him their dog was barking and that there was something going on at the church, Letendre said that he and Mendes heard screaming coming from the field on the church property before preceding to the field where they encountered Merrick and Klenk. Letendre said there was “blood everywhere” around Klenk.

Like Mendes, Letendre claimed he did not tell Merrick to not call 911. Letendre said he attempted to help Klenk to his feet so he could go to the church parking lot where there was more lighting “to assist law enforcement.” Letendre said Klenk screamed as he stood up and collapsed after a few steps. Letendre also said that he and Mendes returned to Mendes’ home because law enforcement was on their way, and there was nothing else they could do.

Letendre told Ducati he had Klenk’s blood all over his hands, and that he washed his hands at Mendes’ residence. The sheriff’s office did not investigate where Letendre washed his hands.

Ducati also wrote in the incident report that Letendre said “the only dog that was out earlier” was Django.

Similar to Mendes, Letendre said he did not hear deputies “knock on the front of the residence.” Unlike Mendes, Letendre did not claim that he went back to bed and fell asleep when the two returned to Mendes’ home.

On Oct. 2, the day after Deputy Ducati received a statement from Letendre, the sheriff’s office closed the case.

Like Mendes’ account of what happened, questions also surround Letendre’s story. If Letendre was spending the night at his friend’s house on a Friday night, and they were drinking, why were they in bed well before 11p.m., when they reportedly walked out to the field? Furthermore, why was Letendre spending the night at Mendes’ home when he only lives about 10 miles away from Mendes?

A mother’s tireless campaign for justice

Ryder Klenk’s mother, Megan Wion, has fought tirelessly on her quest to seek justice for her son.

Wion has raised several questions regarding the attack upon her son. She doesn’t believe the investigation was properly conducted. Crossroads Baptist Church Pastor Robin Simmons agrees. Simmons told A News Café that he was disappointed that there did not seem to be much of an investigation into the dog-mauling case, and that he was not contacted by the sheriff’s office to provide a statement.

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Megan Wion and her son, Ryder Klenk, in happier times. Photograph by Megan Wion.

The area around the church is quiet at night. Merrick could clearly hear Klenk moaning and crying when he existed his vehicle one hundred yards from where Klenk was laying. Wion wants to know why the sheriff’s office did not interview residents in the other three homes around the church.

“Somebody had to have heard my son scream,” Wion said.

Since Letendre claimed that he and Mendes heard screaming, Wion believes it’s likely that other neighbors could have heard her son’s screams, too.

Wion believes it’s possible that Mendes brought a dog along to confront Klenk in the parking lot, and perhaps there was some kind of an altercation before Mendes and Letendre returned to the scene, only to find Merrick helping Klenk while on the phone with the 9-11 operator.

Wion doesn’t believe sheriff’s deputies properly investigated the blood marks in the parking lot. The parking lot was stained with blood near Klenk’s truck, but there was not one drop of blood between his truck and where he was found in the adjacent field. Wion took note of a bloody footprint located near Klenk’s truck that did not come from his shoe. The front bumper of his truck also contained blood.

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A photograph of the Crossroads Baptist Church parking lot which shows Klenk’s blood and a footprint (bottom right) that did not belong to Klenk. Photograph by Megan Wion.

Mother questions actions of law enforcement officials

Merrick told A News Café that he believed that Mendes and Letendre knew Klenk was intoxicated. Wion wonders how Mendes and Letendre knew Klenk had been drinking, if, as their stories claim, they had just shown up to find Klenk injured and lying on the ground, being tended to by Merrick.

The deputies who arrived at the scene located empty “Twisted Tea” alcoholic beverages near and around Klenk’s truck. However, if Mendes and Letendre — as they claim — walked directly to the field where they met Merrick and Klenk from Mendes’ residence, there is no way they would have been close enough to Klenk’s truck to notice the beverage containers.

Wion also questions why Mendes and Letendre left the scene where an individual was severely injured and bleeding. She questions why they encouraged Klenk to move and allegedly leave the scene risking further injury.

Did Mendes & Letendre violate policies?

Mendes and Letendre were not employed by the sheriff’s office; however, sheriff’s office policy says that the 911 operator should be informed if an off-duty officer is on the scene of a potential crime and should be provided with a description of the officer if possible.

“Whenever practicable,” says the policy, “the investigator should loudly and repeatedly identify him/herself as a police officer until acknowledged.”

According to all of the statements in the incident report, Mendes and Letendre did not identify themselves as law enforcement officials.

In addition, sheriff’s office policy also says that any off-duty law enforcement official who engages in law enforcement activity, regardless of jurisdiction, shall notify a supervisor as soon as practicable. Mendes and Letendre engaged in a law enforcement activity if they attempted to help Klenk get up and move to the parking lot.

There is no evidence that Mendes and Letendre notified their supervisors about their actions.

Wion recently brought up these policies up with a deputy at the sheriff’s office. She was told they did not apply to Mendes and Letendre because they were not employed by the sheriff’s office. A News Café contacted the California Department of Justice media relations office to determine policies for off-duty agents and spoke with two different staff members. Both explained that they would call A News Café back but neither did so even after a follow-up phone call.

Was inspection of dogs insufficient?

Wion was present, watching from a short distance, the morning after Klenk was attacked to witness Deputy Bodner and the two Animal Regulations Officers investigate Mendes’ dogs. She said the inspection of Django and the K-9s in the kennels did not seem thorough or professional, and that the dogs were not closely examined. Wion did not see Bodner and AROs enter Mendes’ property to closely view the kennels at the back of his property and not visible from the gate.

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Photographs of what appear to be dog prints in the Crossroads Baptist Church parking lot taken by Megan Wion the morning after Ryder was attacked.

Wion says she was told by Deputy Bodner that the sheriff’s office did not take DNA from Mendes’ dogs because they did not appear to be wet from a recent bath.

When Wion followed up with the Animal Regulations Unit to ask why a DNA sample was not taken, the ARO staff member told her that in their 16 years of working for the unit, the ARO had never taken DNA from a dog suspected of biting someone. The sheriff’s office still possess the clothing Klenk wore on the night he was attacked. Wion located a ripped piece of the jeans Klenk was wearing at the church the day after he was attacked that contains some of his blood. It is possible that the ripped piece of jeans could be tested to identify the breed of the dog that attacked Klenk.

Wion wonders why the dogs were not more thoroughly investigated considering a number of factors: First, Mendes said one of the gates on his property was not properly secured. Second, Klenk told a deputy at the hospital that he was attacked by dogs. Third, the doctor wrote in the report that Klenk was attacked by a K-9. What’s more, Wion wonders why Mendes’ property was not searched for blood and, why Bodner and the AROs did not investigate the possibility of other dogs in the sparsely populated neighborhood.

Wion has also posed the question as to how and why the dog attack suffered by Klenk ended, and why the punctures on his body avoided vital areas, as K-9s are trained to do.

A retired California law enforcement officer/K-9 training expert told A News Café the normal protocol for a mauling by an unknown dog or dogs would include the sheriff’s office handing the case to animal control for a follow up investigation. The sheriff’s office policy on animal control says that AROs should play a leading role in the investigation of a dog potentially involved in an attack.

The retired law enforcement officer also said Klenk is lucky to be alive.

Deputy DA responds

In October of 2021, Wion emailed Shasta County Deputy DA Benjamin Hanna a list of more than 20 reasons why the attack on Klenk was not properly investigated. She included photographs of Klenk’s injuries, and the location of his attack. Many of those reasons are addressed in this piece.

In his response to Wion, Hanna said he carefully reviewed the material she provided and was told by the sheriff’s office that the investigation was closed and that the case would not be referred to District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett for the filing of criminal charges.

Hanna also said the DA’s office only files criminal charges that are referred by law enforcement agencies, and that it does not file charges based on information provided by the public. The district attorney has, in fact, taken on cases not referred by law enforcement agencies.

Hanna ended his email by saying the lack of criminal charges did not prevent Wion from pursuing a civil remedy. Wion and Klenk cannot afford to hire an attorney for a civil suit.

Case reopened by Major Crimes Unit

In December of 2021, the Record Searchlight wrote about Klenk in a story framed as a mother’s search for justice. Wion spoke with the reporter, but Klenk declined to be interviewed.

In January, the sheriff’s office reopened the case and assigned it to the Major Crimes Unit. Wion was told at the sheriff’s office by Deputy Jerry Fernandes that case had been reopened. An official with the sheriff’s office confirmed for A News Café that the case was reopened.

When Wion returned to the sheriff’s office to speak again with Fernandes, she was told that officer was not available, and that he had been transferred.

Wion spoke with numerous law enforcement officials and civic leaders after the case was reopened. She met with two FBI agents in Sacramento and showed them the pictures of the scene where Klenk was attacked, as well as his injuries.


They recommended she hire an attorney.

Wion called the Etna Police Department, where Mendes worked as an investigator, several times to file a complaint against Mendes with Police Chief Josh Short. Short reportedly told Wion he had heard about the incident but said the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office was in charge of the investigation and that he could not help her. Wion was recently told by Chief Short that Mendes retired from his position with the Etna Police Department.

Wion also filed a complaint with Letendre’s supervisor, the Division Chief of Alcohol and Beverage Control’s Northern Division, David Bailey and ABC’s district office in Sacramento. She was told that ABC does not release policies for off-duty officers to the public.

Wion has spoken on several occasions with Shasta County District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones. She alleges Jones said, in a meeting at the Fort Jones gun shop owned by his family, that the case was a clear example of a cover up. Like others, Jones reportedly told Wion that she and Klenk should get a lawyer.

Another email to the deputy DA

In March, Wion emailed Deputy DA Hanna again.

“I was informed that their investigation has not revealed any information that would enable the DA to prove that a crime was committed or who committed it,” said Hanna.“The sheriff will not be submitting the case to our office for review.”

Hanna also said “I remain convinced that there is insufficient evidence for us to file criminal charges in connection with the injuries to your son.” Hanna wrote his email while the case was still open and being investigated by the sheriff’s department’s Major Crimes Unit.

The case was closed for a second time in April of 2022.

Law enforcement failures

Wion has done everything humanly possible to find answers about what happened to her son. She’s losing faith in North State law enforcement agencies, from the Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s office, to even Animal Control Officers.

The way her son’s case has been disregarded has left Wion feeling as if she can’t trust local law enforcement to follow through with accountability and transparency. A News Café reached out to Nathan Mendes and Brett Letendre for comment but neither responded.

Wion keeps pushing for answers because the answers she is getting make no sense, and she feels like law enforcement agencies have given her the run-around.

Wion and Klenk have struggled to stay afloat as members of a working-class family household in Shasta County who’ve fallen on hard times. Wion works as a home-health aid, and has relentlessly worked on her son’s case, while trying to find housing for her and her kids.

The dog mauling suffered by Klenk naturally served as a significant source of trauma for their family. Klenk’s body is scarred for life. Wion will never be able to forget the image of her son lying in a hospital bed with puncture wounds all over his body.

Klenk and Wion feel cheated by the criminal justice system. To them, it appears that law enforcement takes care of their own, no matter how horrific the transgression.

Finally, it’s dawning on them that perhaps, for people like them here in Shasta County, their lives don’t matter.

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