A jury was seated Wednesday for the trial of a convicted felon accused of injuring a Beaumont police officer during a traffic stop, then leading the lawman on a 100-mile-per-hour pursuit that culminated in a crash.
Justin Forrest West Montgomery, 37, of Yucca Valley is charged with assault on a peace officer, felony evading, resisting arrest, auto theft, receiving a stolen vehicle, theft, theft of public property and possession of burglary tools.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Hollenhorst swore in a panel Wednesday afternoon that will hear trial testimony over the course of three or four days. Opening statements are scheduled Thursday at the Banning Justice Center.
According to court papers, the ex-con was driving a van in the area of Beaumont and Brookside avenues about 1:15 a.m. on Aug. 9, 2017, when a Beaumont police officer spotted the vehicle, recognizing it as one allegedly connected to a string of vehicle break-ins, at which point he signaled Montgomery to pull over.
The defendant told the officer that he had just left a friend’s house, but according to a law enforcement affidavit, the patrolman didn’t buy it and accused Montgomery of “breaking into cars.”
The defendant allegedly threw the van into gear and began rolling forward, as the officer leaned into the vehicle to take away the keys.
The lawman said he struck the defendant in the head and neck with a flashlight, injuring his own right hand and ring finger in an attempt to keep Montgomery from fleeing. The officer was able to free himself, but was clipped in the right leg and foot as the defendant sped away, according to the declaration.
The officer jumped into his patrol car and pursued the convicted felon for about nine miles, during which time Montgomery occasionally drove in opposing traffic lanes with his headlights off, going over 100 mph, the prosecution alleges.
At some point, Montgomery allegedly threw a power drill out of the driver’s side window, and the tool hit the front of the officer’s patrol unit.
The chase ended near Oak Valley Parkway and Desert Lawn Drive, where the defendant lost control of the van, which crashed into a light pole, rolled three times and landed in a dirt field near the Interstate 10 overpass, according to the affidavit.
Montgomery was hospitalized with moderate injuries from which he fully recovered.
According to the declaration, “several keys that had obvious shave and grind marks” used to break into vehicles were found inside and around the wrecked van, along with stolen items that included a Riverside County correctional employee’s ID card.
The complaint against Montgomery includes an April 25, 2017, auto theft in Banning, where officers attempted to stop him near the intersection of North San Gorgonio Avenue and Williams Street. According to prosecutors, the defendant allegedly fled a short distance, abandonedthe stolen Honda Civic and ran away.
He was detained that morning and told police that he had borrowed the car from a friend, but that information was later proved false, according to police.
Montgomery has prior convictions for burglary, felony evading and auto theft, according to court records.
He is being held in lieu of $370,000 bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
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