A convicted felon accused of fleeing from sheriff’s deputies who tried to pull him over for road stunts in Moreno Valley and crashing into a patrol unit, injuring two lawmen, was charged Thursday with assault on a peace officer with a deadly weapon.

Ramiro Jimenez Benitez, 23, of Moreno Valley was arrested and booked into the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside Tuesday following the pursuit.

Along with two counts of assault on a peace officer, Benitez is charged with felony evading and reckless driving.

He pleaded not guilty during an arraignment before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Sean Crandell, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for May18 at the Riverside Hall of Justice and ordered that the defendant be held on $1 million bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.

According to sheriff’s Sgt. Chad Craig, shortly after midnight Tuesday, a patrol unit was eastbound on Alessandro Boulevard when the two deputies spotted the defendant allegedly engaging in “burn-outs,” or tire-screeching rings, at Alessandro and Lasselle Avenue.

“The deputies activated their vehicle’s emergency lights to conduct an enforcement stop on the Nissan coupe for reckless driving,” Craig said. “The (driver) ignored the deputies and continued doing several additional circles in the intersection.”

Moments later, Benitez floored it, fleeing the location and driving into a residential area, with the patrol car in pursuit, the sergeant alleged.

He said as the patrol unit closed in on the defendant’s vehicle, Benitez allegedly made a U-turn, cut his headlights and “drove straight toward” his pursuers.

“The deputies were forced to swerve to avoid being struck head-on by the Nissan,” Craig said.

Additional patrol cars were summoned, and one was going through the intersection of Lasselle and Bay Avenue on a green light when Benitez allegedly plowed through the same intersection against a red traffic signal, culminating in his Nissan colliding with the sheriff’s vehicle, according to Craig.

“The suspect abandoned his vehicle, then fled the scene on foot,” he said. “He was located in a nearby backyard.”

Benitez, who wasn’t injured, was taken into custody without further incident.

Craig said the two deputies in the patrol unit that the defendant allegedly hit suffered minor injuries. The pair, whose identities weren’t released, did not require hospitalization.

According to court records, Benitez has prior convictions for possession of controlled substances for sale and illegal possession of a firearm.

Craig said the illegal street maneuvers that the defendant allegedly performed, also known as a “side show,” are representative of a growing number of illicit stunts that pose a threat to public safety throughout the Inland Empire.

“Taking over streets, destroying intersections and driving at excessive speeds is dangerous and a serious threat to other motorists, pedestrians and our community,” the sergeant said. “No one should be killed or injured because someone wants to show off.”

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