Two figures on scooters, faces hidden behind their helmets, approached the 27-year-old’s car, which was stuck in traffic, opened the door and forced him to give up his jewellery by putting a gun to his head.
Mendoza had returned to his homeland in order to negotiate a prospective transfer, having struggled to settle in France since moving to Ligue 1 from Corinthians in January 2018. He had managed just four goals in 18 months, during which time he had played 41 games.
Given time to go back to South America by Amiens to reflect and take an important decision – offers were reportedly accepted from Russian side Krasnodar and unnamed clubs in Spain and the Gulf – his life changed for reasons outside of his control as the trauma of his assault ultimately ensured he would remain at Stade de la Licorne.
He returned to training with the squad on August 19 but without a pre-season behind him was consigned to simply building his fitness as the team, under the guidance of new coach Luka Elsner, lost three of their opening four matches prior to the first international break.
Mendoza’s personal life, though, was to take another dramatic turn in the space of a month. Just weeks after he was the victim of the armed assault in Medellin, his brother, Yeison, was murdered on September 5, while standing on a Cali pavement.
Also a footballer, the 25-year-old had been on the lookout for a club, having spent several months with his brother in France working alongside the Amiens squad.
It was a second devastating personal blow to Mendoza, who, nevertheless, chose to return to action a fortnight later, appearing on the bench as Amiens defeated Metz 2-1 away from home.
With Elsner’s options short, he was rotated into the starting XI for a home encounter against Bordeaux four days later and made a stunning impact. Just 106 seconds into his playing return after a summer from hell, the attacker had scored his first goal of the season.
The finish was a simple one, a tap-in from virtually on the line, but the smile that greeted it was one of a man who was delighted just to be back on the field. In celebration, he lifted his shirt to show a picture of his late brother.
In just 258 minutes of competitive football this season, he has gone on to virtually double the tally of goals that he had previously managed for Amiens.
Four days later against in-form Angers, he dropped to his knees and pointed to the sky after making a smart movement in the box to turn home a cutback, but his big moment was still to come.
Against Marseille, an opponent that Amiens had never beaten previously, he sealed a 3-1 victory with a composed finish after being released by a brilliant Fousseni Diabate pass in stoppage time.
The bench emptied to congratulate him on his achievement, netting his third goal in nine days – more than he managed in the whole of the previous season.
Unsurprisingly, his mentality has been hailed by Elsner.
Speaking after the 1-1 draw in Angers, the Slovenian coach said: “Despite everything he’s gone through in recent months, his qualities have never been in question. Stiven has an exceptional mentality and has matured following these tragic events.”
Before the summer, Mendoza had not previously shown this side of his character – even before he tried to force a transfer in the off-season.
In March, while injured, he made a trip to Madrid when expected to attend a first-team fixture, much to the chagrin of the club, and even on the field he was not a player noted for his work rate.
His habit of flitting from one club to another – he has turned out for nine different teams on four different continents in a nine-year career – seems to be testimony to his previous inability to settle down.
Tragedy, it seems, has revealed a previously hidden facet to his character. His performances have been filled with greater energy and industry than previously, and he is reaping the rewards with the goals he has scored.
Out of adversity comes opportunity, as the saying goes, and there is no better embodiment of that old adage right now than Mendoza.