Crime

Attempted murder suspect arrested after high speed chase

A 34-year-old man wanted for attempted murder in Monterey County was arrested early Friday after a wild pursuit involving Merced police and sheriff's deputies.

Meanwhile, a 31-year-old Merced police officer responding to the pursuit was injured after crashing his patrol car into a liquor store.

Juan Valenzuela was taken into custody around 12:15 a.m. after surrendering to officers in Mariposa County, according to Lt. Bimley West of the Merced Police Department.

The pursuit started in Merced at 11:47 p.m. Thursday near Martin Luther King Jr. Way and 11th Street after Valenzuela, in a small compact car, failed to halt at stop signs. Police officers tried to pull the car over, but the suspect refused and sped away.

The chase continued to Yosemite Park Way as Valenzuela increased the speed of his car to 80 mph. The pursuit continued eastbound at speeds up to 90 mph. Officer Fernando Flores and Sgt. Rod Court pursued the suspect, until Merced sheriff's deputies took over the chase.

The chase ended when Valenzuela pulled over at Highway 140 and Hornitos Road, seeing a California Highway Patrol officer coming from the opposite direction. He was taken into custody by sheriff's deputies. West said Valenzuela was driving under the influence.

Valenzuela was booked into Merced County Jail on suspicion of reckless driving, felony DUI and a felony attempted murder warrant from Monterey County.

West said detectives from the King City Police Department came to the jail to interview Valenzuela after his arrest.

A sheriff's deputy's foot was also reportedly injured after the arrest. The parking brake of the suspect's car apparently wasn't on, and the car rolled over the deputy's foot. Another deputy injured his knee after Valenzuela tried to struggle with the arresting deputies, according to Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.

Both deputies were taken and treated at the hospital for their injuries, which aren't considered serious.

In a related incident, a 31-year-old on-duty Merced police officer responding to the pursuit as backup crashed his car into a Yosemite U-Save liquor store at 1846 Yosemite Park Way. The nature of the officer's injuries are unknown, but he's expected to recover and is resting at home.

The crash was reported at 11:50 p.m. after the officer, who had his sirens turned on, was traveling eastbound on Yosemite Park Way. The car traveled to the left and struck a raised concrete median. The officer lost control and traveled across the eastbound lane and onto the sidewalk on the south shoulder of Yosemite Park Way.

The car traveled across Carol Avenue, crashing into the northwest corner of the liquor store. The car then ran into concrete poles in front of the business, spun around and came to rest, CHP Officer John Patterson said.

The CHP is investigating the crash.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.

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