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Preliminary hearing set in conflicting schedules

A date for a preliminary hearing has been set for three people accused of attempted murder against a Madera police officer and a civilian ride-along, in a case that made national news.

At Madera County Superior Court, Judge Ernest LiCalsi ordered that suspects James Cruz, Thomas Garcia and Serena Arroyo return May 19 for their hearing, with a court date on April 27 for confirmation last Thursday.

Garcia’s attorney, Miles Harris, said he plans to file for a continuation before the April meeting. According to Harris, he will be in Sacramento for another trial in May.

Garcia, Cruz and Arroyo were arrested in October for the attempted murder of Officer Julian Garcia and his ride-along, Yesica Valencia, last October.

Officer Garcia had attempted to pull the trio over, after their Mazda SUV reportedly committed a traffic violation. According to Madera Police Sgt. Johnnie Smith, the Mazda had reported been stolen.

“The vehicle fled north, and the officer, seeing that the vehicle was failing to yield to his lights, initiated a pursuit (with) lights and siren,” Smith said. “The vehicle continued to blow through stop signs, and ended up north of Sunset Avenue.”

Thomas Garcia reportedly opened fire, shooting out the window of the Mazda in order to do so. He reportedly fired 13 more rounds at the patrol car. Two struck the windshield, with one going high and getting lodged into the top of the patrol car, while the other passed just inches by where Valencia was sitting, and shattered the rear window. A third round punctured one of the patrol car’s tires, disabling the vehicle.

Officer Garcia was uninjured while Valencia received minor scratches from the broken glass.

Police later found the Mazda on Krest Street, a few blocks from where the shooting took place. Inside police found the alleged weapon used in the attack. All three suspects were arrested within three days of the shooting.


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