MURRIETA – Two men were arrested after they allegedly shot at Murrieta police officers in a residential neighborhood during a dangerous, early-morning, vehicle pursuit Friday, May 5. At least one of the pursuing police vehicles was struck by gunfire.
Although no officers were injured by the fired rounds, several officers were later injured while taking one of the suspects into custody, according to Murrieta PD officials.
The pursuit, which covered nearly ten miles, was followed by an hours-long search and ultimately resulted in the arrest of two men, identified as 26-year-old, Fernando Alonso and 32-year-old, Jose Juan Perez Rodriguez. Both are Menifee residents.
The incident began about 2:35 a.m., when a Murrieta police officer spotted a black, full-size pickup truck with paper plates in the area of Los Alamos Road and Hancock Avenue. The officer observed the truck was occupied by two people who matched the description of two suspects wanted for questioning regarding a string of recent vehicle burglaries in the area.
The officer initiated a traffic stop on the truck as it pulled into the Las Brisas Apartment complex.
“As the officer was approaching the vehicle on foot, the driver of the vehicle sped off at a high rate of speed with the vehicle’s headlights off,” Murrieta Police Lieutenant Ron Driscoll said in a written press release.
The officer activated his overhead lights and siren and initiated a pursuit of the fleeing vehicle, which was later determined to have been stolen from the city of Temecula. Additional officers quickly joined the pursuit.
During the pursuit, the driver, who was later identified as Alonso, drove in an extremely reckless manner, without regard for the safety of other citizens or pursuing officers.
“The vehicle continued to travel at a high rate of speed on California Oaks Road and approached the area of Saradella Court,” Driscoll explained.
While in this area, the driver of the vehicle leaned out of the speeding vehicle “and fired multiple gunshots at the officers, striking one of the patrol vehicles,” said Driscoll.
In spite of the danger, officers continued pursuing the suspects southbound on Clinton Keith Road.
The truck continued fleeing into the area of Whitewood Road, which turns into an unimproved, dirt road and dead-ends just west of Keller Road.
In spite of the dead-end, the fleeing truck smashed through a fence, continued eastbound on Whitewood Road and turned right on to Keller Road.
“Due to the speed and the dust kicked up by the suspect vehicle, officers lost sight of the vehicle for a brief moment,” Driscoll explained. “Officers located the suspect vehicle at the dead-end of Keller Road just south of Tracey Avenue and the vehicle was unoccupied.”
Officers reportedly found a handgun near the vehicle that officials believed to be the weapon used in the shooting minutes earlier.
During the incident and subsequent search, officers immediately established a perimeter in the area and began a systematic search for the two men. Officers at the scene called for assistance from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and summoned a police K-9 to the location.
With help from the sheriff’s aviation crew in the department’s helicopter, “Star-9,” ground officers spent the next three hours searching for the suspects.
About 5:45 a.m., more than three hours after the incident and investigation began, City of Murrieta emergency dispatchers received a 911 call from a citizen reporting an unknown subject ringing door bells in the 29000 block of Goldenstar Way in Murrieta.
Star-9 aviation crew members immediately responded to the area and began searching for the person reported in the 911 call.
As Star-9 circled overhead, aviation crew members used their FLIR (forward-looking infrared, heat-seeking equipment) to search for the suspects. Deputies in Star-9 soon detected what appeared to be a heat source in the backyard of a nearby residence.
With Star-9’s assistance, Murrieta police officers quickly located a man hiding near some trash cans.
“A brief struggle ensued between the subject and the officers,” Driscoll explained. The subject, who was later identified as Alonso, was taken into custody with the use of the police K-9.
“A couple of the officers, as well as the subject, sustained injuries while taking the subject into custody,” said Driscoll, who did not provide any updates regarding the nature or extent of the officers’ injuries.
“Alonso admitted to being one of two persons that was in the truck during the assault on the officers…and (he) was later identified as a known gang member,” according to Driscoll.
The other suspect was not immediately identified or apprehended; however, a short time later, officers learned that another vehicle was stolen in a residential area just east of where the pursuit terminated.
While searching the stolen vehicle, officers located “numerous stolen items inside the truck,” Driscoll explained, The stolen property was later determined to have been stolen from multiple vehicles from the city of Temecula.
Murrieta PD detectives assumed the investigation. Because of Alonso’s alleged gang ties, they were assisted by Special Enforcement Team and Gang Task Force members from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Perris Station.
Riverside County SET and GTF members later located and detained the second person from the pursuit about 6:30 p.m. Officials identified the man as Rodriguez.
According to jail records, SET and GTF members arrested Rodriguez on Adams Street in Menifee.
Rodriguez admitted to investigating deputies he had been inside the fleeing truck at the time of the shooting. He also admitted he had stolen the second vehicle from the neighborhood where the pursuit ended.
“Deputies located evidence linking Rodriguez to both Alonso as well as the pursuit,” according to Driscoll. “Deputies also located the stolen vehicle that was taken following the pursuit.”
Officials determined Rodriguez was also a known gang member and he was on Post Release Community Supervision when the incident occurred.
“Rodriguez is a product of Assembly Bill 109, which is the California State Realignment Act that was signed into law in 2011,” Driscoll explained. “AB 109 allows for thousands of less serious felony offenders to remain out of custody on supervision (probation), whereas they would have previously been eligible for state prison.”
An online jail records search revealed Alonso was booked into the Southwest detention Center in Murrieta on suspicion of attempted murder of a peace officer, committing a crime while on bail, resisting a peace officer with violence resulting in injury, battery on a peace officer, being a felon in possession of a firearm, several property-theft related crimes and a gang enhancement.
He remains in custody, being held on $1.02 million bail and is scheduled to be arraigned at the Southwest Justice Center May 9.
Rodriguez was booked on suspicion of attempted murder of a peace officer and violation of probation. He is being held without bail.
Anyone with information regarding this investigation should contact Detective Sergeant Spencer Parker at (951) 461-6364 or by email. Citizens can also provide information anonymously through “We Tip” at 1 (800) 78-CRIME.