A 33-year-old Orange County man who hit an Indio police officer with his pickup and led law enforcement on a brief chase near the Coachella Music & Arts Festival was bound for state prison Monday to serve a four-year sentence.
Michael Anthony Berber of Fountain Valley pleaded guilty in January to assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer and resisting arrest. In exchange for his admissions, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office dropped two related charges against the defendant.
During a hearing at the Riverside Hall of Justice Friday, Superior Court Judge Timothy Hollenhorst certified the terms of the plea deal and imposed the sentence stipulated by the prosecution and defense. Hollenhorst has since signed the orders authorizing transfer of Berber from the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside to the state penitentiary.
According to the Indio Police Department, on the night of April 16, 2022, Berber was driving a few blocks north of the Empire Polo Club, where the annual music fest is held, when he ignored traffic controls, prompting a patrolman to try to detain him in the area of Avenue 48 and Calle Conejo.
Berber disregarded the officer’s orders, and according to the criminal complaint, he grabbed the lawman, Officer Viktor Custic, and briefly held him. In the ensuing struggle, the defendant struck Custic with his 2010 Chevrolet Silverado, according to court papers.
“The suspect fled westbound on Avenue 48 and then northbound on Jefferson Street, while being pursued by Indio police,” according to an IPD statement. “Once the suspect merged onto westbound Interstate 10, the California Highway Patrol took control of the vehicle pursuit with the assistance of Indio PD.”
Berber stopped a short time later at the intersection of Monterrey Avenue and Varner Road in neighboring Thousand Palms, where he was taken into custody without further incident, according to police.
He was not injured.
Custic was treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, from which he fully recovered.
Berber had no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.