Carjacking suspect accused of firing at police during SoCal chase makes 1st court appearance

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Wednesday, March 8, 2023
Carjacking suspect accused of firing at police during chase in court
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A carjacking suspect accused of firing at police officers during a high-speed chase across several Southern California counties faced a judge in court for the first time Wednesday.

A carjacking suspect accused of firing at police officers during a high-speed chase across several Southern California counties faced a judge in court for the first time Wednesday.

Benjamin Gonzalez has been charged in the dangerous pursuit that lasted over an hour Friday. The 44-year-old pleaded not guilty and he is being held on $1 million bail.

According to the Corona Police Department, Gonzalez has "a violent criminal history" and was hit by gunfire in the rolling shootout with authorities. He was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

During the chase, the suspect carjacked a man at a Shell gas station on East Ontario Avenue in Corona.

"The suspect exited his vehicle with a rifle and entered the gas station's food mart," a police news release said. "Upon exiting the food mart, the suspect confronted a 37-year-old male Corona resident and carjacked his pickup truck. The suspect fired at least one rifle round during the confrontation." The victim was not injured.

READ ALSO | Man whose pickup truck was stolen during wild LA chase recounts frightening encounter with suspect

The suspect then led law enforcement officers on a high-speed pursuit through Corona and then into Orange and Los Angeles counties. He sped through several freeways for more than an hour, at times driving on the wrong side of the road, and made his way through Orange County before heading north.

The pursuit ultimately ended in the Harbor City area of Los Angeles, where the truck slammed into a light pole, rendering it inoperable. A short foot pursuit ensued after the crash, with Corona police officers and Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies tackling and piling onto Gonzalez.

Perhaps the most shocking moment of the pursuit was when the driver of the truck opened fire with an assault-style rifle. The model of the gun has not been confirmed by authorities. AIR7 HD was over the scene the moment the suspect stopped on the 91 Freeway, near the 55 Freeway, brandished the weapon and shot at officers, who returned fire.

Two other shootings unfolded throughout the chase, one of which left the suspect's windshield riddled with bullet holes. No officers were injured.

The suspect later lost control of the truck after crashing into a vehicle in Harbor City and slammed straight into a pole near 253rd Street and Western Avenue.

He jumped out of the truck and apparently attempted to carjack another vehicle, but was unsuccessful. At least six officers and deputies tackled the suspect, hogtied him and carried him to a patrol vehicle.