Carjacking suspect ID'd after shootout with police during wild chase through several SoCal counties

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Sunday, March 5, 2023
Carjacking suspect ID'd after shootout with police during SoCal chase
A suspect was identified after being wounded in a rolling shootout with authorities during a high-speed chase that made its way through multiple Southern California counties.

CORONA, Calif. (KABC) -- Police on Saturday identified a carjacking suspect who was wounded in a rolling shootout with authorities during a high-speed chase that made its way through several Southern California counties.

Benjamin Gonzalez, 44, of Los Angeles County, has "a violent criminal history," Corona Police Department said in a statement, adding that he was injured by gunfire and transported to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

According the news release, shortly before 3 p.m. on Friday, Ontario police notified Corona police about a pursuit and hit-and-run collision that occurred in Chino.

"With the assistance of the Ontario Police Department helicopter, Corona police officers located the suspect vehicle and attempted to conduct a traffic stop on Ontario Avenue in Corona," the statement said. "However, due to the suspect's dangerous driving and traffic conditions, officers did not pursue the vehicle."

An armed carjacking suspect has been taken into custody after leading authorities on a dangerous chase that took a twisted turn when he shot at officers with what appeared to be an assault rifle.

A Riverside police helicopter arrived and monitored Gonzalez from overhead as he drove into a Shell gas station parking lot in the 1500 block of East Ontario Avenue in Corona, authorities said.

"The suspect exited his vehicle with a rifle and entered the gas station's food mart," the 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.

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.

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

A man who was carjacked Friday afternoon during a wild chase that went through Orange and Los Angeles counties said he's grateful to be alive - though he admits it was a frightening experience.

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.

At one point, the driver came to a sudden stop on Woodruff Avenue and Allington Street in the Lakewood area as a large group of students crossed the street on a crosswalk in front of him. Video from AIR7 HD showed suspect waiting for the students to cross before he sped off.

"It's amazing no other citizen or person on the roadway was injured," said Corona police Sgt. Jason Waldon.

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.

Witnesses said several people were ducking for cover as they saw the commotion in their neighborhood.

"We were over by the laundromat, in the shopping center, and we heard it come around and he started firing his weapon," said Kimberly Cleggett, describing what happened just steps away from Pines Christian School.

"We heard the helicopter, we had all the kids go inside and lock the room," said the school's principal. "Some of the kids may not be aware but ... everyone is safe."

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Corona Police Department at (951) 817-5837.