An illustration of a man in a prison cell. Image from Pixabay.
An illustration of a man in a prison cell. Image from Pixabay.

A man accused of kidnapping an ex-girlfriend, who gave birth to their son during her 11 days of alleged captivity, was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison for leading Costa Mesa police on a wild chase in which he rammed two patrol cars, triggering an officer-involved shooting.

Juan Manuel Reyes, 36, was convicted Nov. 9 of two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, both felonies, and one count each of felony evading and misdemeanor hit-and-run.

Reyes’ trial on the kidnapping charges is pending, so jurors in the current trial only heard evidence about the police pursuit in Costa Mesa. He will return to court Feb. 5 for a pretrial hearing on the kidnap case.

A Costa Mesa officer on the lookout for Reyes, who had earlier eluded Santa Ana police in a pursuit, spotted him just before 5 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2012, at 3028 Coolidge Ave.

The officer, who was in an unmarked car but was in uniform, saw Reyes driving the girlfriend’s car and tried to get him to pull over, but he hit the gas, triggering the pursuit, Deputy District Attorney Caroline Smith said.

With officers in two separate cars in pursuit, Reyes sped down Baker Street until he hit red-light traffic and turned into a Mobil gas station, the prosecutor said.

One officer tried to block the driveway, but Reyes “veered” around him and then collided with the other officer’s car, she told jurors. Reyes did a “180 turn” and then slammed into the other officer’s car, she said.

When one officer got out of his car with his gun drawn and approached the suspect, he “accelerated” at the lawman, Smith said.

The other officer saw Reyes make a “fist pump motion” through the defendant’s tinted window and, believing the suspect may be armed, fired three shots, striking the vehicle only, she said.

“Did that stop the defendant? No,” Smith said.

A woman who was pumping gas at the station witnessed everything but the shooting, which she heard, the prosecutor said.

“She thought the officers’ safety was jeopardized,” Smith said.

The pursuit continued through the city at speeds up to 80 mph. At one point, when he got caught up in rush-hour congestion, Reyes squeezed his vehicle through traffic, sideswiping one woman’s car and breaking glass that injured her arm, Smith said.

Reyes also drove into oncoming traffic at Main Street and Red Hill Avenue and collided with one of the pursuing police cars, Smith said. The officer got out of his vehicle with his gun drawn, so Reyes “backed up and continued to evade,” she said. The chase continued to Sunflower Avenue, where Reyes’ car broke down.

Defense attorney Renee Garcia, in her opening statement, said, “Yes, he may be guilty of some crimes, but this case is over-filed.”

She said her client fled when one of the officers opened fire because he “was scared for his life,” and told jurors that surveillance video of the officer-involved shooting was missing.

“We don’t have video of the shooting,” she said. “That’s because they need to justify this.”

The officer who opened fire on Reyes was disciplined, according to Garcia.

She maintained that Reyes tried to avoid the officer in the second collision, but he was rammed by the officer, which is against the police department’s policy.

In the still pending case, Reyes is charged with kidnapping his ex- girlfriend on Aug. 30, 2012, and holding her against her will in various motels in Orange County for 11 days. He allegedly threatened to kill her family if she told anyone, according to Deputy District Attorney Cyril Yu, who filed those charges.

During her alleged captivity, the woman gave birth to the couple’s son, according to Yu, who said Reyes took her to a hospital when she went into labor.

She managed to get away from him on Sept. 9, 2012, two days before the police chase, according to Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

–City News Service

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