A convicted felon who fled from a Beaumont police officer in a stolen vehicle that crashed near a freeway overpass was convicted Tuesday of auto theft and other felonies, but jurors deadlocked on several other charges, leaving open the possibility of a retrial.
A Banning jury deliberated five days before finding 37-year-old Justin Forrest West Montgomery of Yucca Valley guilty of the vehicle theft count, as well as evading, receiving a stolen vehicle, theft, theft of public property and possession of burglary tools.
Jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict, however, on charges of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer and resisting arrest.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Hollenhorst declared a mistrial on those allegations and scheduled a status conference for March 15, at which point the District Attorney’s Office is expected to announce whether it intends to press ahead with a retrial in an attempt to obtain convictions on the unresolved charges.
Montgomery is being held without bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
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 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 threw the van into gear and began rolling forward, as the officer leaned into the vehicle to take away the keys, according to the prosecution.
The lawman said he struck the defendant in the head and neck with a flashlight, injuring his own right hand and ring finger 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 prosecution.
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.
At some point, Montgomery 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.
Montgomery was hospitalized with moderate injuries, from which he fully recovered.
According to the prosecution, several keys with obvious shave and grind marks and 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 included 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 fled a short distance, abandoning the stolen Honda Civic and running away.
He was convicted of that theft, as well.
Montgomery has prior convictions for burglary, felony evading and auto theft, according to court records.
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