A 36-year-old man accused of shooting at an off-duty police officer along the Ortega (74) Highway near Lake Elsinore in an act of road rage must stand trial on felony charges, a judge ruled Friday.
Keith Frederick Prante of Mission Viejo was arrested in February 2021 following an investigation by the California Highway Patrol.
At the end of a preliminary hearing at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, Riverside County Superior Court Judge F. Paul Dickerson found there was sufficient evidence to bound Prante over for trial on charges of assault with a semiautomatic firearm, shooting at an occupied vehicle and carrying a loaded handgun in an unlawful manner.
The judge scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for Feb. 17. Prante remains free on a $135,000 bond.
According to CHP Officer Mike Lassig, shortly before 8 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2021, the victim, identified as an off-duty San Bernardino police officer with the initials “T.S.,” was going east on the 74 approaching Decker Canyon Road when the defendant abruptly stopped directly in front of him, blocking his path along the narrow two-lane corridor.
There was no word on what immediately preceded the action.
Lassig alleged that Prante leaned out of his vehicle with a .40-caliber pistol in hand and opened fire on the driver’s side of the victim’s car. However, none of the bullets penetrated the windshield.
The defendant then accelerated away, but traveled only a couple of miles before pulling over to the shoulder of the highway, according to Lassig.
T.S. spotted Prante and, “fearing for his safety, stopped just west of the suspect’s location,” the CHP officer said.
“The victim observed the suspect produce a handgun out the driver’s side window and begin to reverse toward the victim’s location,” Lassig said. “The victim, fearing for his life, fired a handgun … toward the suspect.”
No one was injured.
Lassig alleged Prante immediately drove away, heading into Lake Elsinore, and the off-duty policeman trailed him at a safe distance, making a note of the license plate on the defendant’s vehicle, which soon disappeared from view.
The victim called 911, and CHP officers and Riverside County sheriff’s deputies quickly converged on the area.
Lassig said Prante was identified as the alleged shooter, and his whereabouts were confirmed the following morning, at which point he was taken into custody without incident.
The defendant has no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.