Three Police Officers Recall Car Chase in Preliminary Hearing – Judge Sets Case for Trial

By Amy Berberyan

RIVERSIDE, CA – -After three officers recounted the events and consequences of a car chase during a preliminary hearing last Friday in Riverside County Superior Court, Judge Jorge Hernandez found substantial evidence to move Richard Joseph Saenz’s case to arraignment and set for trial.

The first witness called was Sergeant Arthur Paez, who had when the incident took place at 2:27 a.m. on March 25, 2021.

While patrolling, he said he spotted a black pickup truck fail to stop for a “clearly marked posted stop sign.” The vehicle then turned at a hard acceleration, causing its tires to break loose from the pavement, said Sergeant Paez who conducted a traffic stop because of these two vehicle code violations.

According to Sergeant Paez, the vehicle pulled over after “approximately half a mile” in a designated parking complex. After conducting a records check, Sergeant Paez found there was a warrant out for Saenz’s arrest. He confirmed this warrant was the reason for the arrest, as they had not been able to conduct DUI tests.

When Sergeant Paez started to open the driver’s door, Saenz “immediately began to turn the ignition on,” said the officer, quoting Saenz as saying, “I’m f-d up” and “I want to go home. I just want to go home.”

At this point, Sergeant Paez said he struck the accused “with a left closed fist to get him to stop.” Saenz managed to put his vehicle in reverse and back out, the officer said.

When Saenz accelerated, Officer Paez ended up “wedged between a parked U-Haul truck and the defendant’s open door.” As a result, the door folded all the way open based on the force of the officer’s body and the fixed U-Haul.

Sergeant Paez said he hit the parked U-Haul with his entire body and sustained “bruising on [his] right arm, redness on left [his] shoulder, and upper body pain.”

When Saenz backed out, he accelerated forward into a parked vehicle, and then drove out of the parking structure, explained Paez, who said he then called for emergency backup.

A second witness, Officer Christopher Maker, went to assist Sergeant Paez, and spotted the pickup truck traveling northbound. Maker said when the suspect refused to stop as instructed, a car chase ensued.

During the chase Officer Maker stated that he saw the accused drive, at speeds up to 70 miles per hour, “into oncoming lanes from opposite directions twice,” run a stop sign and turned off his vehicle’s running lights while driving in nighttime conditions.

The car chase stopped when Saenz attempted to negotiate a turn too fast, lost control, and collided “with the curb and parking lot cement.” Saenz climbed out of the driver’s side window and began running west with Officer Maker chasing him.

After 20 to 25 yards, Officer Maker said the accused “tripped over his own feet.”

Officer Maker said he was unsuccessful in getting Saenz in handcuffs because he was “actively trying to fight,” noting two or three other officers were involved in detaining him because he was “combative and angry.”

A third witness, Detective Brian Wood, found, in a vehicle search, on the driver’s side floorboard, “a small Ziplock baggie containing a crystalline substance” that was recognizable as a “usable amount” of methamphetamine. When tested, he said, the substance came out presumptive positive for methamphetamine.

Detective Wood also found a glass pipe with a bulbous end that would have been used to smoke the methamphetamine, he said, adding that he also located a fully loaded revolver in the center console that appeared to be operable. He found two additional rounds in the vehicle’s glove box.

After hearing these three testimonies, Judge Hernandez found there was sufficient evidence for several felony charges, including assault with a deadly weapon, possession of firearm, a convicted felon’s possession of a firearm, and possession of firearm ammunition by a person prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm.

Saenz’s information arraignment and trial setting is scheduled for May 27.