Wanted fugitive nabbed after wild chase from Menifee to Hemet

A wild pursuit that traveled from Menifee to Hemet ended when a felon fleeing in a stolen car crashed into two other vehicles and a wrought iron fence before fleeing on foot into a residential neighborhood Sunday afternoon, Mar. 10. The man, who was later determined to be a fugitive from justice, was apprehended with assistance from a sheriff’s K-9.

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After he was apprehended, 30-year-old, Johnny Ray Autry Jr., was booked into Cois Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta on suspicion of committing six felonies and two misdemeanors. His felony charges included hit and run, recklessly evading officers, burglary, possession of a stolen vehicle, theft of private property and being a fugitive from justice. His two misdemeanor charges include resisting or obstructing an officer and possession of burglary tools.

Contacted for information and details about the pursuit and Autry’s apprehension, Riverside County Sheriff’s spokesperson Deputy Robyn Flores later told RCNS that Sunday’s incident began around 5 p.m., when a deputy assigned to Menifee Police Department observed a white Honda run a red light in the city of Menifee.

Deputies and officers from multiple agencies and area stations converged on the scene where a fugitive from justice was taken into custody after a wild pursuit. Timothy Franzese & Gary Rainwater photos

“The deputy conducted a records check of the vehicle license plate, which revealed the vehicle was stolen,” Flores told RCNS.

The deputy attempted to conduct a traffic enforcement stop; however, the vehicle failed to yield and Autry attempted to speed away from the deputy, at which time a vehicle pursuit was initiated.

During the chase, Autry drove in an extremely reckless manner, without regard for the safety of other citizens or pursuing officers. He was seen running stop signs and red traffic signals, and driving on the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic. Witnesses later said that at one point Autry was even seen fleeing while driving in reverse at high-speed.

Riverside Sheriff’s Aviation Unit in “Star-9” soon joined the chase from above, providing updates and vital information to several pursuing ground units – including a sheriff’s K-9 – below.

As the chase continued away from Menifee and toward the San Jacinto valley, STAR-9’s aviation crew updated that Autry was fleeing eastbound on Florida Ave. nearing Warren Rd. Star-9 then radioed ahead to Hemet police officers that they were involved in a high-speed pursuit and would soon be entering city limits.

Officials pursued a stolen Honda from Menifee into Hemet. The driver, a wanted fugitive and felon, was arrested after crashing into two vehicles and into a wrought iron fence. Eddie George/Hemet News photo

Although sheriff’s officials did not initially request assistance, Hemet police officers began staging with spike strips along Florida Ave., and at various main streets where the fleeing man might try to elude pursuing deputies.

As the pursuit continued through Hemet, Autry lost control of his stolen Honda and crashed into two vehicles in the area of Florida and Lyon avenues. Despite the crash, Autry continued to flee north onto Elk St. Neither of the other vehicles’ occupants were injured in the collision.

Autry then turned east onto Latham, where he continued fleeing until he crashed partway through a wrought iron fence and the stolen Honda became wedged between two apartment buildings in an alley between Hamilton Ave. and Valley View Dr.

After the stolen Honda became disabled, Autry leaped from the vehicle and began fleeing on foot, at which time sheriff’s officials requested assistance from Hemet PD, whose officers were at the scene within moments.

With deputies and officers hot on his heels, Autry began running through yards and jumping fences. However he soon found himself inside an apartment complex, surrounded by deputies and officers with their guns drawn.

Despite being surrounded by officials from the two agencies and with Star-9 continuing to circle overhead, Autry – who found himself trapped and cornered while standing on top of a fence dividing two apartments – refused to give up without a fight. (Dramatic video footage of the pursuit and Autry’s apprehension can be seen below.)

Johnny Autry, 30, is led to a patrol vehicle after he fled from deputies, first in a stolen vehicle and then on foot. Eddie George/Hemet News photo

The suspect “failed to comply with deputies’ commands,” Flores explained, saying a sheriff’s K-9 was eventually deployed and assisted in taking the violent and combative man into custody. As officials walked Autry to a waiting patrol vehicle, crowds of area residents and curious onlookers applauded officials at the scene. Several bystanders and witnesses were later observed thanking the officers and deputies for safely apprehending Autry, without causing any injuries to officials or other citizens.

Paramedics evaluated Autry at the scene and before deputies transported him to an area hospital to be treated for dog bites and other minor injuries. After receiving a medical clearance he was booked into jail.

Jail records indicate Autry remains in custody and is being held without bail and is scheduled to be arraigned at Riverside’s Hall Of Justice, tomorrow, March 13.

Anyone with information about this investigation is encouraged to contact Menifee PD at (951) 210-1000. Callers can refer to incident file number ME190690056 and can remain anonymous. Citizens may also submit a tip using the Sheriff’s CrimeTips online form.

Click any image to open full-size gallerys.

Timothy Franzese & Gary Rainwater/Public Safety Incidents photos

Eddie George/Hemet News photos

Timothy Franzese/Public Safety Incidents video
Hemet News video

Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

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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