A 25-year-old Anaheim man was charged Thursday with a dozen felonies stemming from an alleged crime spree in Lake Forest that included stabbing a woman and a hit-and-run collision that landed a pedestrian in a hospital.
James Carlos Melendrez was charged with four counts of attempted murder, three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of attempted carjacking, and single counts each of burglary, attempted aggravated mayhem and assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, all felonies. He was also charged with two counts of battery and a count of aggravated trespass, all misdemeanors.
Melendrez also faces sentencing enhancement allegations of attempted premeditated murder and inflicting great bodily injury while committing a felony.
Melendrez’s arraignment on Thursday was rescheduled for May 17 in the jail courtroom in Santa Ana.
Melendrez is jailed on $2 million bail, according to Orange County Sheriff’s Department officials.
The alleged crime spree began about 5 p.m. Tuesday in Lake Forest. The suspect got into a fight near the Salvation Army store on Rockfield Boulevard, then ran into an residential complex on Ridge Route Drive and broke into an apartment, but was confronted by a man and woman inside and ran out of the unit, according to sheriff’s spokeswoman Carrie Braun. Witnesses said Melendrez works on the loading dock of the Salvation Army store.
The suspect then ran across Rockfield Boulevard and broke into a home on Danby Drive occupied by a woman in her 40s and two teenagers. He armed himself with a knife from the kitchen, and the woman ran from the home in an attempt to draw the suspect away from the teens, Braun said. While running along Mullin Road near Danby Drive with Melendrez in pursuit, the woman fell and was stabbed multiple times by the suspect, she said.
The woman was taken to a hospital in critical condition. Enrique Palos, the 42-year-old woman’s husband, told KCAL9 his wife is expected to be released from the hospital in a few days.
The victim’s daughter told the station she heard a commotion in the house and, “I walk out and see my mom and the guy running after her.”
While the woman was being attacked, three people in a passing white BMW — believing Melendrez was actually assisting the injured woman — stopped to help. But the knife-wielding suspect chased them away and carjacked their vehicle, Braun said.
One of the carjacking victims, Kelly Mayer, told KCAL9, “You could tell he was on something.”
Another of the victims, Daniel Alexander, said the man was chasing another woman from the BMW, Mary Duran, but then “he turned around and started chasing me.”
Sheriff’s officials said Melendrez stole the group’s BMW and drove onto Lake Forest Drive at Muirlands Boulevard, then veered into oncoming traffic before driving onto a sidewalk, striking a pedestrian in her 50s, who was also taken to a hospital in critical condition.
On Aspan Street, the suspect crashed the BMW into another vehicle, then jumped out of the disabled car and ran into a trailer park across Muirlands Boulevard, according to the sheriff’s department. He tried but failed to make his way into a residence, then allegedly attempted to carjack multiple vehicles on Muirlands.
A passing bicyclist pepper-sprayed the suspect, helping deputies who were just arriving on the scene to arrest him.
He was taken to an area hospital to be treated before being booked into the Orange County Jail on suspicion of attempted murder, carjacking, felony hit-and-run and possible additional offenses, Braun said. She said both victims are expected to survive their injuries.
Investigators suspect Melendrez may have mental health issues and may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time, Braun said.
Sheriff’s Lt. Chad Taylor, who serves as chief of police services for Lake Forest, expressed his gratitude to the residents who helped both victims, including those who put pressure on the stabbing victim’s wounds until paramedics arrived.
Taylor also thanked the cyclist who pepper-sprayed the suspect and helped end the crime spree.
Sheriff’s officials said it took just nine minutes from the time dispatch received the first call until the suspect was in custody.
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