A convicted felon accused of hitting a Banning policeman during a traffic stop and then fleeing the scene, triggering a 20-minute chase, pleaded not guilty Thursday to a felony charge of assault on peace officer.

Damar Peter Smith, 29, of Banning and his girlfriend, Michelle Jimenez, 30, of Beaumont were arrested Saturday after the pursuit that ended on the southwest edge of Banning.

Along with the assault count, Smith is charged with felony evading, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, possession of an assault weapon, possession of controlled substances for sale and battery on a public safety official.

Jimenez pleaded not guilty to possession of a controlled substance.

The pair were arraigned jointly before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Hollenhorst, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for July 8 at the Banning Justice Center.

Both defendants are being held at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning — Smith in lieu of $200,000 bail, and Jimenez in lieu of $50,000 bail.

According to a Banning Police Department statement, a patrolman spotted Smith and Jimenez cruising the 800 block of East Ramsey Street, near Hargrave Street, about 7 a.m. Saturday and ran a records check on the defendants’ vehicle, which indicated it was displaying a stolen license plate.

The officer signaled Smith to pull over, and he complied.

“As the officer made contact with the driver outside of the vehicle, the driver resisted and assaulted the officer,” police allege. “The suspect driver was able to get back inside his vehicle and flee from the officer. The driver failed to stop for emergency lights and siren, and a vehicle pursuit was initiated.”

Beaumont police and California Highway Patrol officers, along with Riverside County sheriff’s deputies, joined the 27-mile pursuit which ended at the intersection of Sunset and Westward avenues, where a CHP officer employed a “pursuit intervention technique” — PIT — maneuver to push Smith’s vehicle off the road, according to the police department.

Smith and Jimenez were taken into custody without further incident. No one was injured.

Illegal narcotics, the rifle, a semiautomatic handgun and multiple knives and swords were seized from the vehicle, authorities alleged.

According to court records, Smith has prior convictions for felony evading, domestic violence and possession of controlled substances. No information was available regarding Jimenez.

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