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Drunken drivers, gun shots keep police busy

DJ Becker/The Madera Tribune

Madera Police Chief Dino Lawson looks at a wrecked 2018 Madera police SUV recently struck and totaled by a female driver alleged to be DUI and three times over the legal limit for alcohol.


Two men who were reportedly shooting at an occupied house in the 28000 block of Posey Avenue southeast of Madera led officers of The California Highway Patrol on a chase into the city limits, firing 20 to 30 rounds from an AR 15 assault rifle at CHP officers as the suspects fled in a stolen red Honda.

The incident happened Thursday night about 10:30 p.m., according to authorities, who believe the incident was gang related.

Lawson shook his head in disbelief at the events of the evening and said he was very thankful none of the rounds landed and no one was hurt by the many wild shots fired by the suspects.

“CHP was out on an unrelated vehicle stop Near Posey Avenue when they heard the gunfire and honed in on sound of the shots.” Lawson said. “They come around the corner and they see (from a distance) the two guys walk right in front of them and get into the car. They can see one is holding a rifle, an AR and the other is holding a handgun. The car takes off, CHP follows, lights them up, pursuit is on. By the grace of God ... you fire that many rounds from that type of weapon and don’t hit anyone ... someone could have been killed in a heartbeat.” Officers did not return fire at the car at any time during the pursuit, according to authorities.

The fleeing men continued to fire on the CHP officers in bursts of gunfire as they approached the area of east Pecan Avenue near south Madera Avenue.

Lawson said Madera police responded to the incident but were not involved in the pursuit.

“They also then fired 20 to 30 rounds (from the assault rifle) at CHP officers in the city in the area of Stadium Road and Pecan Avenue.” he said.

A CHP helicopter was overhead also attempting to locate the car but due to the volume of traffic the Honda was able to disappear into the city, according to Lawson. A similar car was found the next morning abandoned in the area of Ellis Street and Chapin Street in north Madera, but police do not now believe it was the same vehicle involved in the chase and are still looking for the stolen 1994 to 1997 red Honda Civic.

Lawson said The Madera police Special Investigations Unit (SIU) was activated to investigate the incident and every law enforcement unit that was available, CHP and the Madera County Sheriff’s Department, was called on to participate. “We just saturated the city and will continue to do so ... looking for these guys.”

Authorities believe the two suspects in the shooting are local and may still be in the area.

Madera police stopped another vehicle Friday night in the city with five male occupants believed to be gang affiliated and out looking to protect themselves or retaliate, and recovered a loaded 12 gauge shotgun. The driver, Alvaro Perez, 21, was arrested and charged with possession of a concealed, loaded firearm and probation violations. Luis Arais, 18, Diego DeJesus, 19, and two juveniles were also arrested and booked on miscellaneous charges of probation violations and possession of ammunition.

Driver alleged to be DUI at investigation crashes into and totals police car

Shortly after the pursuit and shooting, Madera police officers were investigating the scene on Pecan Avenue when about 11:30 p.m. an unrelated incident involving a driver alleged to be DUI, plowed into and totaled a 2018 police SUV.

“We had cordoned off the crime scene on Pecan with police cars with their overhead lights on, so traffic or pedestrians can’t get through and were investigating the shooting when the first suspected DUI woman driver went through the area. Officers were out of their cars handling the first DUI,” Lawson said.

Police arrested 22-year-old Mariah Echevarria on suspicion of the first DUI at the scene.

“Detectives and officers were still at the scene collecting shell casings and any other evidence that may have been present when the second DUI (a female driver) came plowing through, driving the wrong way on Pecan about 11:30 and struck the parked police car with such force it was totaled and pushed back into a second police SUV. Her car then overturned. It was very fortunate the officers were standing on the other side of their cars.” Lawson said.

That driver, Theresa Orta, 37,of Madera was arrested on suspicion of felony DUI when field sobriety tests indicated she appeared to over three times the legal limit for alcohol. Orta’s passenger sustained minor injuries in the rollover crash, and both were take to Madera Community Hospital. Orta was reportedly unable to stand, or walk well when interviewed later at the police station.

The DUI crash was the second DUI arrest at the scene of the shooting investigation Thursday night.

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Up to $2,000 cash reward offered for information on the shooting incident.

Madera police are still looking for the stolen 1994 to 1997 red Honda Civic and any other information on the recent gang-related shooting. Crime Stoppers pays up to a $2,000 cash reward for anonymous tips resulting in an arrest and conviction in a crime, for information called into their tip line at 498-STOP (498-7867).


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