Criminal charges were filed today against an 18-year-old Cathedral City man suspected of backing a car into three officers, triggering a shooting that wounded a bystander in Palm Springs.
Juan Villanueva Lopez Jr. was charged with one count each of attempted murder and carrying a concealed firearm while participating in a criminal gang and three counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer.
He was scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.
About 10:50 p.m. last Wednesday, an officer patrolling the 600 block of South Camino Real saw an unoccupied vehicle he believed may have been used an attempted residential burglary in the city on Tuesday, Kovaleff said.
Police watched the car until two males climbed in about 11:30 p.m., and the driver subsequently “ignored the officers’ repeated commands to exit the vehicle,” Kovaleff said.
Two officers and a sergeant tried to pull the driver out of the car, while other officers detained the passenger, he said.
The sergeant used a Taser on the driver, who put the vehicle in reverse, running over the two officers and the sergeant, Kovaleff said.
“An officer-involved shooting occurred simultaneously to the suspect speeding off in the vehicle with the lights off,” Kovaleff said.
A 49-year-old man walking nearby was struck in the leg by a bullet fragment, treated at a hospital and released, Kovaleff said.
The three injured officers were treated at a hospital for what Kovaleff described as moderate injuries, then released. One officer sustained injuries to a hand, arm, chest and legs; the other had leg and foot injuries. The sergeant was treated for injuries to his hands, arms, knees and face.
All three were put on paid administrative leave pending an investigation, which is standard protocol in officer-involved shootings.
Officers from the California Highway Patrol, local police departments and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department began helping Palm Springs police look for the suspect. The vehicle he was driving was found in a dirt lot nearthe 32700 block of Pueblo Trail in Cathedral City shortly after noon Thursday, and a gun was found in the vehicle, Kovaleff said.
Lopez surrendered to authorities in the 32700 block of Pueblo Trail in Cathedral City on Thursday morning. He was taken to a local hospital for treatment of injuries he may have received during the shooting, then to jail, where he was being held on $1 million bail, Palm Springs police Sgt. Mike Kovaleff said.
He said Villanueva was out of custody on his own recognizance after being arrested for alleged unlawful discharge of a firearm on New Year’s Day in Cathedral City.