Crime

Nearly two dozen cars damaged by rocks on Highway 152. One person arrested, police say

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Bruce Simmons describes his long commute on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. Simmons drives four days a week from the Central Valley on Highway 152 to Gilroy, where he catches a train to his job in Menlo Park.
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Bruce Simmons describes his long commute on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. Simmons drives four days a week from the Central Valley on Highway 152 to Gilroy, where he catches a train to his job in Menlo Park.

Santa Clara County deputies arrested a 28-year-old man for throwing rocks at cars on Highway 152 on Sunday morning.

But investigators are at this point handling the arrest as an isolated incident, Santa Clara Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Low said.

“The investigation is still very fresh,” Low said. “As of right now, with the information that we have, it does not appear to be the same individual” involved in prior rock-throwing incidents in Pacheco Pass.

However, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol authorities were still investigating if there were possible connections.

Deputies responded to reports of a person throwing rocks at passing vehicles at about 9:15 a.m. Sunday, on Highway 152 near Lovers Lane, east of Gilroy, according to a sheriff’s news release.

When they arrived, about 20 cars were pulled over on the highway after being struck by rocks, the release states. No one reported serious injuries.

Witnesses helped authorities locate the suspect, identified as 28-year-old Jeremy Valdez, but Valdez fled and ran into a large, multi-acre grass field, according to the release.

Valdez discarded clothing as he fled, and deputies followed the trail and tracked him down, the release states.

Valdez was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, several incidents of vandalism, throwing objects at moving vehicles, delaying and resisting arrest and a violation of post release community supervision, according to the release, which noted the help of California Highway Patrol and the Gilroy Police Department.

The incident is similar to several instances of vehicles being pelted by rocks on Pacheco Pass, frustrating commuters between Los Banos, in Merced County, and the Gilroy-San Jose-San Francisco Bay area.

Between February 2018 and March 2019, California Highway Patrol has investigated about 10 incidents of cars being damaged between Casa de Fruta and Dinosaur Point, the Santa Clara County side of Pacheco Pass, CHP officials previously confirmed.

Since then, there have been several more reports of cars damaged on the Pass, said CHP Gilroy Officer Chris Miceli. The best description of a possible suspect was a white male with shoulder-length hair, officials said.

While Sunday’s arrest wasn’t likely connected to the other rock thrower incidents, Miceli said authorities are now exploring connections between the Pacheco Pass vandalism to similar incidents on Highway 101 in Monterrey County.

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