A convicted felon who allegedly fled from police in a high-speed chase from Riverside into the Perris Valley while armed and carrying a large amount of methamphetamine must stand trial for evading and other charges, a judge ruled Monday.
Ronny David Melton Jr., 33, of Riverside was arrested in March following the chase, which later resulted in stolen vehicles being seized at a property where he was staying.
At the end of a preliminary hearing at the Riverside Hall of Justice, Riverside County Superior Court Judge O.G. Magno ruled there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial on the evading charge, as well as one count each of being in possession of controlled substances while armed, being in possession of illegal drugs for sale, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, carrying a loaded gun without a permit and being a felon in possession of ammunition.
The judge scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for Feb. 24 and left Melton’s bail set at $250,000. He’s being held at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
According to Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback, on the afternoon of March 17, a county sheriff’s helicopter crew was circling the Mission Grove neighborhood on the south end of the city when a LoJack signal buzzed, alerting the crew to the presence of a stolen tractor.
The crew was able to isolate the signal to the 14400 block of Wood Road, and patrol units converged on the location a few minutes later, encountering a black Lexus occupied by the defendant and a woman leaving a house over which the chopper was flying, Railsback said.
He said officers signaled Melton to stop, but he allegedly sped around the cruiser and headed south.
“The driver traveled at dangerous speeds, with no regard for others, so the pursuit was discontinued,” Railsback said. “The sheriff’s helicopter was then aided by our Riverside police helicopter, following the Lexus as it continued to flee and drive recklessly at speeds through the city and county areas.”
The police spokesman alleged that the Lexus abruptly stopped in the early stages of the chase, and a bag containing “a sawed-off shotgun, two loaded handguns, assorted ammunition and a large amount of … crystal methamphetamine” was dumped along a roadside.
A patrol unit went to the spot and collected the evidence, Railsback said, and the pursuit continued, with the helicopters tracking the Lexus as it went into Nuevo.
“The driver briefly stopped to refuel … even speeding away with the gas nozzle still attached to the car,” he said.
Deputies took over the chase, trying to convince the driver to stop, at which point he entered the Ramona Expressway, then turned onto Fifth Street and headed into an open field but got bogged down in mud, according to Railsback.
Melton and his female companion, whose identity was not disclosed, exited the Lexus and surrendered. The pursuit lasted about an hour.
A search of the vehicle revealed more meth, “a large amount of money and items associated with illegal narcotics sales,” Railsback alleged.
Back at the home where Melton had been staying, the stolen tractor was seized, as well as 10 other alleged stolen vehicles, according to the police spokesman.
The woman was questioned and released, and Melton was jailed.
No charges connected with the stolen vehicles were filed in the case due to evidentiary concerns.
According to court records, Melton has prior convictions for identity theft, possession of controlled substances and check fraud.