A convicted felon who fled from a Beaumont police officer in a stolen vehicle that crashed near a freeway overpass was sentenced Friday to six years in state prison.
A Banning jury last week convicted 37-year-old Justin Forrest West Montgomery of Yucca Valley of vehicle theft, felony evading, receiving a stolen vehicle, theft, theft of public property and possession of burglary tools.
Jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on charges of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer and resisting arrest, prompting Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Hollenhorst to declare a mistrial on those two counts.
Rather than attempting to retry Montgomery on the remaining felony charges, prosecutors reduced them to misdemeanors, and the defendant admitted both.
Hollenhorst imposed the sentence required by law.
Montgomery 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, which he did.
The ex-con 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 court papers.
The lawman said that 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 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.
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, prosecutors said.
The chase ended near Oak Valley Parkway and Desert Lawn Drive, where the defendant lost control of the van, crashing into a light pole, rolling three times and landing in a dirt field near the Interstate 10 overpass.
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 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 before abandoning the stolen Honda Civic.
He was convicted of that theft, as well.
Montgomery’s prior convictions include burglary, felony evading and auto theft.
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