UPDATED: Armed man on I-215 freeway in Perris who forced closures ID’d
The unidentified suspect is seen being taken into custody. William Hayes photo
UPDATE: 07/25/2016 7:30 p.m.
The man who caused the I-215 freeway and Ethanac Road to be closed for more than five hours after he was seen running up and down the center of the freeway while armed with a loaded rifle has been identified as 27-year-old Antonio Caesar Lopez. After he was taken into custody, Lopez alluded to a bomb or other hazardous or destructive device inside his vehicle when he reportedly told California Highway Patrol officers there was something inside his truck that was going to hurt officers.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Hazardous Devices Team was called to the location to check Lopez’ vehicle and render any possible device safe. According to CHP officials, nothing dangerous was found inside the subject’s gold SUV. However, the freeway and overpass were closed for more than five hours while a robot was used to search the vehicle.
Lopez was charged with three felonies and six misdemeanors. However, in spite of all the chaos he caused for motorists and hours of lost time for law enforcement officials, Lopez was released from jail just hours later when he posted $25,000 bail.
News that Lopez was released so soon after he was booked into jail has infuriated many citizens, who question how and why a person who caused such a disruption could have been released so quickly.
Teresa Sarenana, who resides in Hemet expressed her frustration at Lopez’ quick release from jail, saying, “There’s no fear of great consequences when criminals break the law. These criminals know the system so well that they do what they want and they know how far they can go.”
“I’ll bet he was out before all the paperwork was completed, and that alone is a crying shame,” Sarenana continued. “No wonder our officers get frustrated when they put their lives on the line to serve and protect but they have to encounter the same bad people day after day cause they get out of jail before the ink dries.”
The incident began at 5:40 a.m., when multiple motorists called 911 to report seeing Lopez alternately laying in the center divider and popping up while pointing the rifle at passing motorists, jumping back and forth over the center divider from one side of the freeway to another, and running up and down along the center median.
UPDATE: 07/24/2016 11:13 a.m.
As of 11:15 northbound lanes of the I-215 freeway were re-opened to through traffic. Per CHP, the southbound lanes are expected to be re-opened soon.
UPDATE: 07/24/2016 8:20 a.m.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Hazardous Devices Team arrived at the location to assist in determining if there was an explosive device inside the man’s vehicle as a precautionary measure at about 8 a.m. HDT members were called to the scene after the suspect told officers there was something inside his SUV that was “going to hurt the officers.”
PERRIS – Multiple reports of a highly agitated man on the I-215 freeway in Perris brought an overwhelming response from California Highway Patrol officers and Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies this morning, Sunday, July 24, a CHP official confirmed. Callers told CHP dispatchers the man was armed with a rifle.
A CHP incident log showed the first of numerous 911 calls that began to flood into the CHP Temecula Border Station at about 5:40 a.m.
Multiple callers reported seeing a man laying on the ground near the center divider of the freeway. A rifle was later located inside or near the man’s vehicle, which was described as a gold SUV.
The man, who was seen repeatedly jumping over the center divider from the northbound to the southbound sides of the freeway, was taken into custody at about 6 a.m.
As he was being taken into custody, the man told CHP officers there was something inside his vehicle that was going to “hurt the officers.”
Fearing there might be an explosive device inside the vehicle, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Hazardous Devices Team was called to the location and is currently en route to this active and ongoing incident.
The subject’s vehicle was located near the Ethanac Road overpass, which forced not only the closure of both the north and southbound lanes of the freeway but the Ethanac Road overpass as well.
By 6:30 a.m., all traffic on the 215 freeway had been diverted off the freeway from Highway 74 to McCall Road creating a traffic nightmare for early morning motorists.
A command center is currently being set up at an undisclosed location near where the incident is occurring.
Correction: The rifle seen being carried by the CHP officer in the main image has been determined to have been the officer’s weapon, not the suspects.
This is a breaking story. Updates will be added as they become available.
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