By Susana Jurado
SACRAMENTO – A man, charged with a felony count of assaulting his brother-in-law with his car, maintained a not guilty plea after the Sacramento County Superior Court found probable cause in the preliminary hearing Friday, and set trial for September.
The defendant, Richard Gonzales, has a criminal history—he was charged with a previous felony count back in 2018 when entered his neighbor’s residence without permission in order to beat him, according to court testimony.
The details behind that case involved the neighbor trying to intervene in an argument Gonzales was having with his wife. This led to the defendant coming after the neighbor and breaking three of his ribs.
Gonzales currently has two restraining orders against him.
In the current case, according to the District Attorney’s Office, on March 16 at around 6 a.m., law enforcement officers responded to a 911 call reporting a hit and run where the victim’s car was brutally smashed into by another vehicle belonging to defendant Gonzales.
The victim reported that as he turned on his car to go to work, he heard another car speeding toward him in the parking lot of his apartment complex. He told investigators that the defendant jumped out of the once speeding vehicle, went up to his window and tried to grab him.
Out of fear, the victim sped off. But not long after, as he stopped for a stop sign, he saw the defendant’s vehicle behind him—it sped toward him and crashed into the rear of the victim’s car, causing the victim’s head to roll forward.
Then, quickly, Gonzales fled the scene.
Deputy District Attorney Rainey Jacobson began the preliminary hearing by calling her first witness to the stand, Police Officer Terry Baggett from the Citrus Heights Police Department in Sacramento County.
Officer Baggett told the court he spoke to the victim over the phone, who “told me his brother-in-law hit him with his vehicle.”
Approximately 15 minutes after their conversation over the phone, the police officer arrived at the scene and assisted the victim in moving the car out of the street. Once the car was moved out of the street, the officer noted he got a complete statement from the victim telling exactly what happened.
“He told me…that he was warming his vehicle to get ready to go to work. He heard a vehicle speeding in the parking lot of his apartment complex. As he started to leave to the exit, the gate, Mr. Gonzalez came up to his window and reached in and tried to grab him,” said the officer, adding that “he feared for his safety so he drove off out the gate. He was stopped at the stop sign. He looked in his rear view mirror and saw Mr. Gonzales’s vehicle coming speeding at him, not slowing down, and he hit him.”
When the DDA questioned the speed of the defendant’s car during the incident, the officer confessed that the victim did not specify how fast Gonzales was going when he hit him.
However, the officer did recall the victim suggested the crash looked intentional, as he stated, “He said it did not look like he was slowing down, he sped up.”
When the victim was confronted in the parking lot of the complex, Officer Baggett told the court, based on the victim’s statement, the defendant was yelling at the victim, “Where’s your sister?”
According to Officer Baggett, the victim had no serious injuries but had some soreness on his back and shoulders from the hit, yet the victim insisted on declining any medical attention.
To further identify if the perpetrator was in fact Richard Gonzales, the officer noted to the court that he took the investigation further by pulling up his picture and showed it to the victim.
The victim confirmed that the person in the picture was in fact Gonzales.
As DDA Jacobson asked further questions about the make and models of the cars and the level of damage that occurred, Officer Baggett went on to tell the court he took the time to inspect the victim’s vehicle, a green Dodge, giving his description as he stated, “There was damage to the rear bumper. As far as I remember the bumper was falling off the vehicle.”
The deputy district attorney took that moment to present Exhibit 2 to the court showing the wreckage in the rear of the green Dodge, with Officer Baggett confirming to the court that it was indeed the victim’s car and admitting the picture accurately reflected the damage after the crash.
When DDA Jacobson asked Officer Baggett what he did next, he said, “After showing the victim the picture of the suspect, we attempted to contact the suspect, and then we attempted to show up and go to the house.”
The officer further told the court that they actually found Gonzales’s car on the way to his house, in the parking lot of a Target nearby. He noted to the court that the distance Gonzales’s car was from the incident was, “Not even a quarter of a mile away.”
DDA Jacobson presented to the court Exhibit 1, displaying a picture of the defendant’s car after the incident, showing the visible wreckage to the front of the vehicle.
When Officer Baggett saw the picture, he confirmed seeing that fairly substantial damage on the vehicle and recalled it belonging to Gonzales.
Officer Baggett told the court that he could not get ahold of the defendant’s wife at first, but eventually did when he learned there was a tow truck on scene, called by the defendant’s wife herself.
“We attempted to contact the wife originally…when we went to the home we attempted to contact the home of Mr. Gonzales and Mrs. Gonzales and also we attempted to contact the daughter,” Officer Baggett said, “We were unlucky in doing so.
When they eventually contacted Gonzales’s wife, Officer Baggett told the court what she said: “She stated that [her husband] had hit her brother’s vehicle.”
DDA Jacobson concluded her questioning and Judge Lindquist directed the court to the defense counsel.
Private defense attorney Adam Weiner asked the officer about the demeanor of the victim, and the officer responded, “He was upset, as far as I remember, the vehicle was new to him and he was very upset the vehicle was damaged. I could say yes he was angry.”
The officer also confirmed under questioning that the defendant did not appear to be under the influence of any drugs or alcohol, and that there didn’t appear to be any skid marks on the street.
The officer told the defense attorney that there were no other vehicles around the victim when the incident occurred and admitted there was a potential witness to the incident, but noted, “She was in their apartment complex, not out on the street. We spoke to the witness but she only heard the incident, she did not see any vehicles.”
Since the incident occurred near a Target, the defense attorney questioned the officer about any video surveillance that was captured. The officer said there were store cameras but wasn’t sure if the “video was pulled.”
The defense submitted the matter and presented no evidence. As a result, Judge Lindquist excused the witness.
Judge Kristina Lindquist ruled that, based on the evidence provided, the offense charged was committed and true. With sufficient cause, she found the defendant should stand trial. The pre-trial hearing is set for Sept. 2, 8:30 a.m. Gonzales’s bail is currently set at $90,000.
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