A man who allegedly claimed to be a member of a drug cartel and fired a gun outside a strip mall restaurant pleaded not guilty Wednesday to multiple felony charges.
Manuel Ochoa, 22, was arrested Sunday for the alleged Feb. 9 crime outside the Santa Fe Restaurant, 68545 Ramon Road in the desert town of Cathedral City just east of Palm Springs.
Ochoa faces charges of making criminal threats, discharging a firearm, possession of an assault weapon, carrying a loaded firearm while not being the registered owner and possession of a generally prohibited weapon.
Ochoa was allegedly at the restaurant just before midnight, but left angrily after an unidentified person punched his godfather, according to a declaration in support of an arrest warrant.
He allegedly later returned with a loaded, short-barrel AR-15 assault rifle and revolver and demanded to be let back inside to confront the person. When the restaurant manager wouldn’t let him in, Ochoa pointed the revolver into the air and fired a single shot, the declaration states.
He then allegedly told the manager that he was a part of a drug cartel and would call his “people” to come “make a mess” of the restaurant if he wasn’t allowed inside.
A waitress called police, whose arrival prompted Ochoa to flee in a PT Cruiser that he crashed into a curb near 33rd Avenue and Canyon Vista Road, the declaration states. He fled on foot and eluded capture, but both guns were found on Canyon Vista Road, according to authorities.
Cathedral City police later identified Ochoa as the suspect through the PT Cruiser, which was registered to his sister’s ex-husband. Witnesses at the restaurant also positively identified Ochoa in a photo lineup, according to the declaration.
Ochoa, who’s being held at the Riverside County jail in Indio in lieu of $95,000 bail, will return to court May 12 for a felony settlement conference.
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— City News Service