Jury deliberations began Tuesday in the trial of a convicted felon and his sidekick accused of trying to kill Riverside County sheriff’s deputies in separate attacks in San Jacinto.
Andre Marsalis Sanchez, 27, and David Alexander Almeras, 25, could each face life in prison on charges stemming from the 2015 attacks.
Almeras is charged with attempted murder of a peace officer, carjacking, shooting at an occupied vehicle, assault with a firearm, possession of an assault rifle and a sentence-enhancing allegation of criminal street gang activity.
Sanchez is charged with two counts each of attempted murder of a peace officer and assault with a firearm, as well as one count of shooting at an occupied vehicle, possession of an assault weapon and a sentence-enhancing gang allegation.
The prosecution and defense made their closing arguments Tuesday morning at the Banning Justice Center, after which Riverside County Superior Court Judge Sam Shouka sent jurors behind closed doors to begin weighing testimony from the three-week trial.
The defendants are each being held in lieu of $1 million bail at separate detention facilities.
According to sheriff’s investigators, on the morning of April 11, 2015, Almeras carjacked a San Jacinto man at knifepoint, taking his Toyota sedan. Sanchez jumped in the car while the victim ran to call 911, investigators said.
Shortly after 11 p.m., a deputy patrolling the area of De Anza Road and Palm Avenue spotted the stolen Toyota and immediately began a pursuit, signaling the driver to pull over, according to Deputy District Attorney Lorie Ronce, who spoke to City News Service after the men’s 2016 preliminary hearing.
The prosecutor said detectives learned later that, by the time of the chase, Sanchez was driving the vehicle and was evidently alone.
“During the attempted traffic stop, the defendant stopped the car and opened fire on the deputy pursuing him,” Ronce said. “Based on the evidence, it’s believed that (Sanchez) fired 13 rounds from an AK-47.”
The deputy ducked for cover and was struck by flying glass from the patrol car’s windshield but was not hit by a bullet.
The patrol unit was disabled, and the pursuit was terminated. The Toyota was located less than an hour later, wrecked outside a residence, but there was no sign of the assailant.
Two days later, Almeras and Sanchez were allegedly spotted in a Dodge pickup truck, blowing through stop signs near San Jacinto in the late-night hours, according to sheriff’s investigators.
A deputy signaled the men to stop along Summerchase Road, but the pair sped away, investigators alleged.
“During the pursuit, the deputy heard four volleys of gunfire,” Ronce said. “He began a snaking maneuver and increased his unit’s distance from the truck to prevent being struck.”
Ronce said the pickup went onto the Soboba Indian Reservation, where Almeras then lived.
A sheriff’s helicopter crew was able to take over the pursuit and watched as the defendants abandoned the truck and hopped into a car driven by an unidentified accomplice, who drove them back off the reservation, according to the prosecution.
Investigators said the chopper crew followed the car to the intersection of Jordan and Second streets, where the defendants allegedly bailed out and fled into a home.
Deputies surrounded the property a short time later and negotiated the men’s peaceful surrender.
According to Ronce, the pair were allegedly in possession of a .223 semi-automatic rifle and a 20-gauge pump shotgun. The rifle was allegedly used to fire at the pursuing patrolman.
Sanchez has a prior felony conviction, though court documents did not specify the nature of the offense. Almeras has multiple unrelated misdemeanor and felony cases pending.