A 28-year-old convicted felon accused of fleeing from sheriff’s deputies in a stolen van while drunk in San Jacinto, triggering a multi-vehicle wreck that left four people injured, must stand trial on several felony charges, a judge ruled Thursday.
Juan Alonso Perez of San Jacinto was arrested following the mid-February pursuit that ended near downtown Hemet.
A preliminary hearing at the Banning Justice Center concluded with Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Hollenhorst ruling there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial on charges of eluding law enforcement, auto theft, felony driving under the influence resulting in great bodily injury and possession of burglary tools. The defendant also faces a sentence-enhancing allegation of causing multiple injuries in a DUI collision.
Hollenhorst scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for March 18 and left Perez’s bail at $500,000. He’s being held at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
According to sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Mix, Perez was spotted by a patrol unit about 2:40 p.m. Feb. 16 in the area of Main Street and Mistletoe Avenue. He was behind the wheel of a 2020 Chrysler van that had been reported stolen hours earlier, according to the sergeant.
Mix alleged that when deputies signaled the parolee to pull over, he floored the van instead, speeding south into Hemet.
“The suspect fled from law enforcement … in a reckless manner, including running stop signs and driving into oncoming traffic,” the sergeant said.
Pursuing deputies backed out of the chase for pubic safety, and a sheriff’s helicopter crew began tracking Perez from overhead, according to Mix.
He said the defendant lost control of the vehicle at the intersection of Menlo and Palm avenues, hitting four cars and leaving the van inoperable, at which point he gave up.
Perez was not hurt, but according to court documents, four people — two men and two women — in the other vehicles suffered moderate to major injuries and were taken to Inland Empire hospitals for treatment.
Records show Perez has prior convictions for felony eluding, possession of controlled substances and perpetrating gang-related offenses while on bail.