Suspect behind violent chase through LA, OC waves at cameras during 1st court appearance

Johnny Anchondo, 33, of Moreno Valley, did not enter a plea at his arraignment, which was rescheduled for Feb. 3.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Suspect behind violent chase through LA, OC makes 1st court appearance
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Johnny Anchondo, 33, of Moreno Valley, did not enter a plea at his arraignment, which was rescheduled for Feb. 3. He didn't say much, but he did take a moment to wave and smile at ABC7 cameras during his appearance.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- A suspect who led authorities on a wild high-speed chase through Los Angeles and Orange counties made his first appearance in court Tuesday in Santa Ana on charges related to the chaotic pursuit that included the theft of a van and work truck before he was apprehended at a Whittier gas station.

Johnny Anchondo, 33, of Moreno Valley, did not enter a plea at his arraignment, which was rescheduled for Feb. 3 in the North Justice Center in Fullerton.

Anchondo didn't say much, but he did take a moment to wave and smile at ABC7 cameras during his appearance.

The Orange County District Attorney's office filed multiple felonies against Anchondo, including felony assaults on eight law enforcement officers. Orange County Commissioner Joe Dane kept Anchondo's bail at $200,000, but the defendant's attorneys can argue for a lower bail at the next hearing.

The chase unfolded the evening of Nov. 9, 2022.

Fullerton police attempted to pull over Anchondo for traffic violations, but it quickly turned into a high-speed chase in which multiple vehicles were stolen and several collisions took place involving innocent drivers and officers.

The chase, which reached speeds of nearly 100 mph, wound through northern Orange County to Whittier, where Anchondo dumped a van and ran into a family's home in Whittier, where he grabbed keys and stole a work truck, prosecutors said.

Andres Benitez, whose family were the victims in that scene, said they've been on edge since that day.

"My mother, she actually ended up having some sort of PTSD," he said. "For like the first month, she was actually just scared being home alone."

After watching it all unfold on live television, the community came together and donated money to the Benitez family after learning their truck was key to their landscaping business.

"We literally just asked for tools but the community wanted to make sure that we got like a new truck and all this and it really did help us out a lot because like the insurance situation, all they did was pay off the other truck, they weren't going to give us a brand new truck to get back to work," said Benitez.

Benitez said he took Anchondo's nonchalant demeanor at his court appearance as a sign that he has no remorse.

"I believe if somebody did that, they would feeling ashamed, a lot of guilt," he said. "Just by hearing that he looked at the camera, waved and smiled, it's just saying the complete opposite about him."

Anchondo is accused of nearly running over two deputies, prompting gunfire from law enforcement, prosecutors said. The defendant was not injured in the gunfire.

He is charged with single counts each of carjacking, burglary, leading police on a chase, and resisting arrest, eight counts of assault with a weapon on a police officer, five counts of assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of theft with a prior felony conviction for auto theft, and three counts of vandalism, all felonies.

Anchondo was also charged with evading a peace officer and driving against traffic, three counts of hit and run with property damage, a count of brandishing a weapon, a count of possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia, all misdemeanors.

He could face up to 54 years in prison if convicted of all charges at trial, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

Anchondo was convicted in December 2021 in Los Angeles County of attempted carjacking, according to the criminal complaint.

City News Service, Inc. contributed to this report.