by Jordan Lee, Antoinnette Borbon and Elaine Gabriel.
A 21-year-old Oregon man allegedly stole a Chevy Silverado in Oregon and was on his way to Southern California with two friends when the California Highway Patrol attempted to pull him over for speeding. Instead of pulling over, Mr. Taylor began a 40-mile high-speed car chase that nearly led to the death of CHP Officer Eduardo Garcia.
But in his opening, Deputy Public Defender Dan Hutchinson told jurors that a friend, not his client, was the driver of the red truck.
Elijah Sterling Taylor, from the tiny Oregon community of Prospect, pled not guilty of the charges against him, which include a violation of California Penal Code section 241(c), assault of a peace officer; Penal Code section 245(c), assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer; Penal Code section 148, resisting or obstructing a peace officer; Penal Code section 496, receiving stolen property; and Vehicle Code section 2800.4, willfully fleeing or eluding a pursuing peace officer by driving on opposite side of road/highway.
During the high-speed-chase, Mr. Taylor is reported to have swerved from the second lane of Interstate 5 southbound in an attempt to crash into Deputy Sheriff Garcia, who responded to the scene. Missing Deputy Garcia’s patrol car by a mere foot, Mr. Taylor continued to evade peace officers.
Exiting onto a country road near Woodland, California, Mr. Taylor allegedly drove into oncoming traffic, forcing five civilian vehicles off the road. Pursuing peace officers gave up the chase, deeming it too dangerous to continue.
Peace officers later found the abandoned Chevy Silverado crashed into a flowerbed of a Woodland residence.
Mr. Taylor was found trapped in a nearby cul-de-sac, where he continued to evade peace officers by scaling yard fences. He was ultimately brought down by a police dog and arrested.
Mr. Taylor tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana upon arrest, facing charges for violating California Vehicle Code section 23152, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Deputy District Attorney Matt De Moura began with, “Desperate and reckless indifference are the two phrases that describe this case. Willful disrespect of humanity.”
“The defendant, high on meth and marijuana, drove in speeds of 100 miles per hour, attempting to move cars out of his way as he drove head on into them – that is what the defendant did on April 24th of 2014.”
De Moura explained that the defendant, Mr. Taylor, came within one foot of hitting head on the vehicle of Deputy Garcia. He said, “You will hear what he says on the video carcam, he thought he was going to be hit.”
De Moura stated to jurors that California Highway Patrol officers had to stop because the chase became too dangerous to pursue. Later, he said, “the defendant crashed the truck into a flower bed and fled the scene, hiding in a shed in a nearby house.”
“He used the stolen truck as a weapon as he tried to ram into officers’ cars and oncoming traffic that night.”
DDA De Moura asserted that “when you hear all of the evidence in this case, you will find the defendant guilty.”
Mr. Hutchinson began with, “Good afternoon, Mr. Taylor is a 21-year-old who comes from the small town of Prospect, Oregon. Not much to do,” he stated.
Hutchinson said that on the night of April 24, Taylor and a couple friends set out on a road trip. But before that, Mr. Taylor went over to a friend’s house where a band was playing. He said that “this is where he finds the red truck, keys inside, he decides to take the truck to drive to another town to go to a nightclub.”
He explained, “At some point, they decide they are going to take a road trip.”
After driving about five hours, they see a highway patrol vehicle. The CHP officer attempted to pull them over, but they continued driving at high speed.
“But the one driving the truck that night was not Mr. Taylor, the defendant, and you will see that in the video.”
Hutchinson said, “A friend of the defendant’s, Shane Kelly, was driving and when you see the video and put all the evidence together, you will see that it is simply not true, you will see the defendant was not the driver.”
Hutchinson contended that the “prosecution wants you to believe it was the defendant because he is the only one who was found and arrested that night.”
“There is no dispute, it was reckless,” added the defense. Mr. Hutchinson told jurors that once they see and hear all of the evidence, they will find Mr.Taylor not guilty of the charges.
Testimony begins in the morning.