By Ankita Joshi
SACRAMENTO, CA – Defendant Andrew Duenas allegedly took numerous law enforcement units on a wild ride on August 17, 2019, after a highway vehicle accident.
He was present in Sacramento County Superior Court Wednesday, held on three felony counts for unlawful flight with reckless driving away from a pursuing peace officer, driving in the opposite direction of traffic, and assault by a deadly weapon identified as the vehicle.
He is also being held on three misdemeanor violations, including property damage and failure to remain at the scene of the crime, unlawful resisting/obstructing peace officers, and driving under the influence.
The preliminary hearing began with both the defense and the prosecution stipulating to the results of a blood test taken by the Sacramento Police Department, which found 974 nanograms of methamphetamine and 150 nanograms of amphetamine per millimeter of the defendant’s blood.
The first witness that testified was SPD Officer Gregory Eston, who was called to watch for a black Mercedes that had been involved in a highway violence accident on I-5 South.
Officer Eston was able to locate the Mercedes and attempted to initiate a traffic stop, but the vehicle did not stop, despite the fully marked police vehicle following it. The Mercedes was traveling at fluctuating speeds from 70 mph to 90 mph, weaving in and out of traffic in both lanes.
Officer Eston was involved in the chase for approximately seven to eight miles before he discontinued his involvement, as other officers joined in the chase and he had another assignment to complete.
However, Officer Eston was able to contact the victims of the highway violence accident.
The victims said they had been returning home from a trip to Oregon when a Mercedes had come up behind them and tailgated them. When they changed lanes to allow the Mercedes to pass, the Mercedes continued to stay behind them no matter how many times they tried to change lanes.
The Mercedes allegedly rammed the rear of their vehicle four to five times while they were driving on the freeway before passing them.
During cross, Assistant Public Defender John Crisostomo noted that there was a lack of identifying information present about the driver of the Mercedes, and that there was no damage present to the victim’s vehicle.
The second witness that testified was California Highway Patrol Officer Jose Morones who had witnessed the Mercedes cross multiple lanes of traffic without proper signaling, and joined the pursuit for approximately five minutes before the collision that ended the pursuit.
Morones reported multiple vehicle code violations including running a red light, unsafe lane changes, running three stop signs, and a hit and run.
The pursuit of the vehicle ended when the vehicle collided with a parked vehicle, and upon the inspection of Morones’ body cam footage, the driver lunged forward at the moment of impact and hit his head on the windshield.
CHP Officer Morones also noted that the cuts and scratches present on Duenas’ face were similar to the injuries that someone would have from hitting their head on the windshield of a vehicle.
During cross, PD Crisostomo found that the owner of the vehicle was the defendant’s ex-fiancée who had not seen Duenas since last June. However, upon interrogation, the ex-fiancée did not explicitly say that Duenas was the only one who could have had access to the vehicle.
The third witness that testified was SPD Officer Joshua Smith, who was one of the arresting officers after the search of the suspect who had been driving the Mercedes.
Officers were able to locate the registered owner of the vehicle, which was Duenas’ ex-fiancée. After speaking with Duenas’ ex-fiancée, officers found additional information on Duenas including tattoos and previous gang relations.
Officer Smith was contacted by three different witnesses during the search on foot that stated they had seen the suspect near or in their homes.
The first witness had stated that the suspect had entered her house through a glass sliding door, put a finger up to his lips to silence her, and hid in the bedroom. However, when officers entered the house to search the bedroom, the suspect had removed the screen and escaped through a window.
The second witness that Officer Smith was in contact with was one who claimed they had seen a man matching the description of the suspect leaving the area out of the perimeter that the officers had set up.
When shown pictures of Duenas, this witness was able to positively identify Duenas as the suspect they had seen.
The third witness stated that he believed the suspect had been in his backyard. The Sacramento Police Department’s helicopter was able to identify that there was a person in this witness’ backyard before the suspect disappeared under the foliage of a tree.
Officer Smith conducted a search of the backyard with his canine partner, and was able to locate the suspect in a green shed in the backyard.
When located, Duenas had wrapped his hands around the canine’s neck and “was actively resisting to fight off and overcome my canine partner,” said Officer Smith.
Even after being told to stop, Duenas continued to choke the canine partner, which resulted in Officer Smith using force techniques to detain Duenas.
When Officer Smith met Duenas at the Sutter General Hospital again, he described Duenas as “very fidgety and grinding his teeth.” These actions led Officer Smith to believe that Duenas was under the influence of narcotics.
The fourth and last witness that testified was Officer Lindsey Smith, who had helped with detainment and had transported Duenas to Sutter General Hospital. Lindsey Smith described Duenas as “uncooperative and paranoid,” and when asked to leave stated that he “was not going until a real doctor evaluated him.”
Duenas proceeded to place his legs inside the gurney and tensing up so officers could not remove him from the gurney. Other officers had to be called to assist in placing max restraints on Duenas, so that officers could have more control over Duenas’ mobility.
Once at the jail, Duenas grew more uncooperative and tried to kick officers and remove his restraints during the blood draw.
Once the last witness had been excused, PD Crisostomo made the argument that there was only circumstantial evidence present for identifying Duenas as the suspect who was driving the Mercedes.
However, Deputy District Attorney Rainey Jacobson contended that identification was not an issue as there had been multiple officers and witnesses who had been able to positively identify Duenas. And that included that Duenas’ actions once restrained only added to circumstantial evidence present.
Judge Delbert Oros ruled in favor of the prosecution, and agreed that the circumstantial evidence presented to the court was enough to link the defendant to all the events that were described.
Duenas entered a not guilty plea for each of the six counts against him, and a jury trial date was set for July 19.
Ankita Joshi is a second-year student at the University of San Francisco, pursuing a major in International Studies and a minor in Political Science. She is originally from Sacramento, CA.
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