A man suspected of leading a SFPD officer on a chase from the streets of the City of San Fernando into the Angeles National Forest, and later allegedly shooting at the officer before making an escape, has been arrested in Buckeye, Arizona.
Lt. Derrick Alfred of the LA County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said on Wednesday, Dec. 8, he had been notified that Juan Carlos Vazquez, 38, had been taken into custody there by local authorities.
According to Alfred, the suspect had an assault rifle with him at the time of the arrest, but was taken into custody without incident on Tuesday, Dec. 7.
Vazquez is currently being held in Buckeye on a parole violation, and will remain in custody there until he is extradited to Los Angeles, Alfred said. More charges, including attempted murder of a police officer, could be filed upon Vazquez’s return.
“We’re working out the details on transporting him back, and any other extradition details we may have. He’ll remain in custody until we present our case to the District Attorney,” Alfred said, adding the actual extradition could take up to two weeks.
The LA County Sheriff’s deputies, who handled the investigation here, coordinated the search and eventual arrest with Arizona deputies, Phoenix and Buckeye police, and federal marshals, Alfred said.
The incident in San Fernando occurred in the early morning hours of Nov. 7. At approximately 3:40 a.m., a SFPD officer began pursuing a white GMC truck that had failed to stop following a traffic violation.
The pursuit began on Foothill Boulevard in San Fernando, and continued to the 13300 block of Little Tujunga Canyon Road in Sylmar. The pursuing officer momentarily lost track of the vehicle before spotting it disabled on a dirt shoulder.
According to the county sheriff’s department, the SFPD officer came under gunfire after exiting her vehicle. The officer returned fire. Neither the officer nor the suspect was injured.
The SFPD then handed over the investigation and search to the Sheriff’s Special Enforcement Bureau.
“From the day of the shooting we hit the ground running,” said Alfred, who was in charge of the investigation. “We knew this guy who was willing to wait on an officer who had abandoned a pursuit, then open fire when he had the opportunity to simply run away, was a danger to any other law enforcement officer who may have contact with him — not to mention what he may do to the public if someone tried to contain him.”
Alfred said investigators followed up on several leads before determining that the suspect was being helped to travel to Arizona. “That came in through an anonymous tip,” he said.
Once investigators were able to better define where in the city of Buckeye — which is west of Phoenix — they believed the suspect was located, Alfred said homicide investigators here contacted the Buckeye police “who were more than willing to help us out.”
Arizona and federal law enforcement teams, who were given images and descriptions of the suspect by LA Sheriff’s investigators, began to stake out the location on Sunday where they believed the suspect was, Alfred said. The lieutenant would not pinpoint the exact location, saying only, “It was in a pretty remote area where it would have been very difficult to go unnoticed.”
Once a visual identification was established, the law enforcement teams moved in and made an arrest, Alfred said.
“There was a possibility he could have engaged the officers there the same way the officer in San Fernando was engaged,” Alfred said. “Thankfully, that did not occur.”