Clumsy Burglar Steals Rifle, Then Accidentally Shoots and Kills Himself

A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
March 6 2013 4:20 PM

Clumsy Burglar Steals Rifle, Then Accidentally Shoots and Kills Himself

A man aims a shotgun.*

Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/GettyImages

Crime is Slate’s crime blog. Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @slatecrime.

A reader passes along the sad, instructive story of Genaro Hernandez Mendoza, an Oregon man who met his untimely end late last week. The 19-year-old Mendoza broke into a farmhouse in Independence, Ore., and came away with a pretty good haul, including a truck, a shotgun, and a rifle. Unfortunately, the house was located on a bumpy road, and as Mendoza drove away in the stolen truck, the rifle was jostled and went off. Even more unfortunately, the barrel was pointing straight at Mendoza. Police found his body hours later. The truck’s engine was still running.


Everyone loves a crime story with a Twilight Zone-style ironic twist ending. (“And the Cookie Factory Bandit eluded the police only to be defeated by a more powerful foe: indigestion.”) But Mendoza’s death is mostly just sad. People don’t generally turn to crime if they excel at a lot of other things. This man’s demise is a tale of desperation meeting incompetence, with a death that reads as a punchline.

As with anything else, there’s a learning curve for crime. Aspiring yeggs, take note: Crime is not as easy as it looks in the movies. Wear gloves. Plan an escape route. And don’t point a rifle at your head when you’re driving a getaway car on a bumpy road. The life you save may be your own.

Correction, Mar. 6, 2013: The photo caption in this blog post originally stated that the man depicted was aiming a hunting rifle. In fact, he is aiming a shotgun.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at



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