An ex-con who was already awaiting trial on allegations he stole Palm Springs police Chief Bryan Reyes’ patrol vehicle from the body shop where he worked and subsequently posing as an officer must also stand trial on weapons charges, a judge ruled Wednesday.
William Leon Menser, 29, of Indio was arrested on Jan. 4, 2018, one day after prosecutors filed misdemeanor embezzlement and officer impersonation charges against him. Menser was additionally charged with two felonies that April for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, and ammunition.
During a preliminary hearing at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Harold Hopp found prosecutors presented sufficient evidence to warrant a trial in the felony weapons case.
Menser, who remains out on bond, is scheduled to return to court Sept. 21 for a post-preliminary hearing arraignment in the weapons case and a pretrial hearing in the embezzlement and officer impersonation case.
He is accused of taking Reyes’ SUV in November 2017 while it was undergoing body work repair at Rembrandt’s Paint and Body in Cathedral City, then using the vehicle to attempt a traffic stop on a man in Cathedral City, according to an arrest warrant declaration.
He worked as an “estimator/manager” at the body shop and told investigators he took the SUV home because he noticed the rear sensors were malfunctioning. He said he had planned to drive it to a Ford dealer “first thing the next morning,” but was able to fix the issue himself using his scanner tool, according to the declaration.
He later took the SUV to a car wash, a Starbucks and a gas station, where he said he pumped $10 worth of gas, and admitted using the SUV’s emergency lights to slow a driver who was speeding, according to the document.
On Jan. 4, 2018, investigators served a search warrant at his home, where they found guns and boxes of ammunition, according to the arrest warrant declaration. An airsoft replica of a 9mm Glock 17 — one of the most widely used law enforcement pistols — multiple magazines and boxes of ammunition and a Palm Springs Police Department baseball cap were found in the trunk of his car, according to the document.
In his home, officers also seized items typically used by law enforcement personnel, including a Taser, spike strip, collapsible baton, federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives badge and a Palm Springs Police Department citation book, “with several citations missing in it,” the declaration states. Investigators also found “a black Mossberg AR-15 style .22-caliber rifle” and “several hundred rounds of .22 rifle ammo,” according to the declaration.
According to prosecutors, the Palm Springs police incident is not the first time that Menser has been accused of stealing a police vehicle. In 2014, he and a co-defendant were arrested for stealing a Glendale Police Department vehicle from the Orange County Sheriff’s Academy. He pleaded guilty later that year to car theft, grand theft auto and receiving stolen property, records show.