Pair convicted of trying to shoot deputy, but jury acquits on other counts


BANNING (CNS) – A convicted felon and his sidekick who tried to kill a Riverside County sheriff’s deputy in San Jacinto were both convicted Friday of attempted murder of a peace officer and other offenses.

After four days of deliberations, a Banning jury found Andre Marsalis Sanchez, 27, and David Alexander Almeras, 25, guilty of the 2015 attack, but jurors deadlocked or acquitted the pair of other charges.

Along with the attempted murder count, both defendants were convicted of shooting at an occupied vehicle and possession of an assault weapon.

The jury hung 11-1 in favor of convicting Sanchez of a separate count of attempted murder of a peace officer and 11-1 in favor of convicting him of assault on a peace officer.

Almeras was acquitted of carjacking, and both defendants were acquitted of assault with a firearm.

The men are tentatively scheduled to be sentenced by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Sam Shouka on Feb. 7. The District Attorney’s Office will announce during the hearing whether it intends to retry the charges on which jurors deadlocked.

If there is no retrial, each defendant could still face 35 years to life in state prison. Each is being held without bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.

Sheriff’s investigators alleged that on the morning of April 11, 2015, Almeras carjacked a San Jacinto man at knifepoint, taking his Toyota sedan. Sanchez jumped in the car while the victim ran to call 911, investigators said.

Shortly after 11 p.m., a deputy patrolling the area of De Anza Road and Palm Avenue spotted the stolen Toyota and immediately began a pursuit, signaling the driver to pull over, according to Deputy District Attorney Lorie Ronce, who spoke to City News Service after the men’s 2016 preliminary hearing.

Ronce said detectives learned later that, by the time of the chase, Sanchez was driving the vehicle and evidently alone.

“During the attempted traffic stop, the defendant stopped the car and opened fire on the deputy pursuing him,” Ronce said. “Based on the evidence, it’s believed that (Sanchez) fired 13 rounds from an AK-47.”

The deputy ducked for cover and was struck by flying glass from the patrol car’s windshield but was not hit by a bullet.

The patrol unit was disabled, and the pursuit was terminated. The Toyota was located less than an hour later, wrecked outside a residence, but there was no sign of the assailant.

Two days later, Almeras and Sanchez were spotted in a Dodge pickup truck, blowing through stop signs near San Jacinto in the late night hours, according to sheriff’s investigators.

A deputy signaled the men to stop along Summerchase Road, but the pair sped away, investigators said.

“During the pursuit, the deputy heard four volleys of gunfire,” Ronce said. “He began a snaking maneuver and increased his unit’s distance from the truck to prevent being struck.”

Ronce said the pickup truck went onto the Soboba Indian Reservation, where Almeras then resided.

A sheriff’s helicopter crew was able to take over the pursuit and watched as the defendants abandoned the truck and hopped into a car driven by an unidentified accomplice, who transported them back off the reservation, according to the prosecution.

The helicopter crew followed the car to the intersection of Jordan and Second streets, where the defendants bailed out and fled into a home.

Deputies surrounded the property a short time later and negotiated the men’s peaceful surrender.

According to prosecutors, the pair were in possession of a .223 semi- automatic rifle and a 20-gauge pump shotgun. The rifle was used to fire at the pursuing patrolman, for which the men were convicted.

Sanchez has a prior felony conviction, though court documents did not specify the nature of the offense. Almeras has multiple unrelated misdemeanor and felony cases pending.