Stolen vehicle pursuit leads to brief standoff in SJ parking lot

SAN JACINTO VALLEY — A probationer was arrested after a short pursuit and standoff in a stolen car Tuesday, Nov. 20. The incident began in the area of W. Oakland and San Jacinto avenues, and ended in the Stater Bros. parking lot after officers deployed pepperball rounds into the stolen car.


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After his arrest, officers identified the suspect as Miguel Cortez, 27. Cortez was eventually booked into Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning on suspicion of possession of stolen property, resisting or obstructing officers, and violation of probation. Jail records indicate he remains in custody in lieu of $50,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned at an unspecified court, Nov. 26.

A man later identified as Miguel Cortez gasps for fresh air as airborne irritant is dispersed from pepperball rounds fired into a stolen car at the end of a slow-speed pursuit. Miguel Shannon photo

Yesterday’s incident began around 11:30 a.m., when a City of Hemet police officer spotted a stolen car, described as a blue Toyota Prius, being driven in the area of W. Oakland and San Jacinto avenues. The officer requested additional assistance as he followed Cortez as he drove northbound on San Jacinto St.

Because the stolen car had entered San Jacinto, Riverside County sheriff’s deputies were also notified and officials from both Hemet and San Jacinto quickly converged on the Toyota. A Sheriff’s Aviation Crew in Star-9 also responded to the area and was soon seen circling overhead, providing critical information and updates to officials on the ground.

Officers and deputies initiated a traffic stop just as Cortez pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot, but Cortez refused to yield to officers’ lights and sirens. He then began to lead officials on a slow-speed pursuit that wound its way through the Wal-Mart parking lot, then back out to Commonwealth Ave. and onto San Jacinto Ave., before pulling into the Stater Bros parking lot.

With a long line of Hemet and San Jacinto patrol vehicles, as well as Gang Task Force and special teams’ officials, following him, Cortez continued to drive slowly through the Stater Bros parking lot before parking near Chase Bank, on the 1500 block of S. San Jacinto Ave.

Officers and deputies stacked up behind the stopped Toyota, using their patrol vehicles and car doors as protection against possible gunfire, and began ordering the driver to exit the stolen hatchback.

Despite more than a dozen patrol vehicles and nearly two dozen officers and deputies behind him, the man refused to obey the officials’ orders to exit the Prius, sitting calmly in the Toyota with his arm out the open window.

Officers at the scene, who were continuing to hold the man at gunpoint with handguns, rifles, and shotguns, requested additional officers and resources to the scene – asking for less-lethal options such as pepperball and bean-bag rifles.

As the Sheriff’s helicopter continued to circle over the parking lot, curious crowds of onlookers gathered in the area to watch all the police activity.

A community reporter and local news stringer captured the exact moment an officer deployed a taser at Cortez as he leaped from a stolen car he had been driving. Miguel Shannon photo

With Cortez still defying orders to exit the stolen car and surrender to waiting officers and deputies, officials fired more than two dozen pepperball rounds through the car’s open front windows, causing the car’s interior to quickly fill with pepper powder.

The man eventually opened his door in an effort to find fresh air to breath while the airborne irritant filled his lungs, causing him to gasp and choke for air.

As he sat in the doorway of the stolen car gasping for air, officers fired more pepperballs into the car and at Cortez.

Cortez eventually leaped out of the car, at which time an officer deployed a taser, causing him to fall to the ground.

Once Cortez was out of the stolen Toyota, more than a half-dozen officers and deputies rushed in to apprehend the man, who continued to struggle and resist the officers and deputies.

With clouds of pepper powder filling the air directly outside the stolen car and the still  struggling man resisting being handcuffed, officers dragged Cortez about ten feet from the car and managed to safely handcuff and detain him without further incident.

Cortez was eventually checked out by paramedics who responded to the scene and later transported to Hemet PD to be processed and later booked into County Jail.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation or who has information about Cortez’ alleged criminal activities is encouraged to contact Hemet PD at (951) 765-2400. Callers can refer to incident file number 18-11342 and can remain anonymous.

Click any image to open full-size gallery.

Miguel Shannon video


Contact the writer:

Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.


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