WEST COVINA >> A Fontana man accused of wounding a California Highway Patrol officer in a shotgun attack last week entered a not guilty plea Wednesday as investigators released new details regarding the West Covina shootout that erupted during a routine traffic stop.
John Alfred Garcia, 30, is accused of opening fire on CHP officer Felix Serpas with a semi-automatic shotgun after being pulled over at the Sunset Avenue offramp of the westbound 10 Freeway in West Covina just after 1:30 a.m. Friday.
The wounded CHP officer and his partner returned fire, wounding Garcia before he led West Covina police and other authorities on a high speed chase that ended with his arrest in Fontana.
Garcia pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of attempted murder of a peace officer, assault on a peace officer with a semi-automatic firearm and felony evading of police, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said. Garcia is also accused of the special allegations that her personally fired a semi-automatic firearm during the crime, and that the shooting resulted in great bodily injury to the officer.
Serpas and partner Jeremy Keller pulled over a Cadillac Escalade, suspecting the driver may be impaired, CHP Assistant Chief Marc Shaw said. Keller had one year experience with the CHP.
The SUV exited the freeway and stopped in a the parking lot of a business along Sunset Avenue, he said. Felix approached the Escalade to talk with the driver, later identified as Garcia.
“He greeted the driver of the vehicle and was able to get the words, “Good evening,” out when, immediately, an attempt to murder our officer occurred,” Shaw said.
“Our officer tactically retreated. The suspect exited with a semi-automatic 12-gauge shotgun and continued his deliberate, aggressive and premeditated attack in his attempt to murder our officers,” Shaw said. “An officer-involved shooting occurred as they attempted to defend their lives, and an exchange of gunfire in excess of 30 seconds occurred at that point.”
It was unclear how many shot were traded by the suspect and officers.
Garcia got back into his SUV and fled. West Covina police officers soon spotted the Escalade, initiating a chase that reached speeds of more than 100 mph before coming to an end in Fontana. Officers took Garcia, who had been wounded in the shootout, into custody with help from a West Covina police K-9.
The reason Garcia attacked the officers remained unclear, officials said. He had no outstanding arrest warrants, and the SUV he was driving was not stolen.
A second occupant was believed to be inside the Garcia’s SUV when officers first stopped it, but was not present when the chase conclusion. It was unclear exactly when and where the second occupant exited the vehicle. The search for the passenger continued Wednesday.
Serpas, a 40-year-old with six years experience with the CHP, was discharged from a hospital Tuesday and was resting at home, said Capt. Steve Urrea of the CHP’s Baldwin Park area office, where Serpas works.
Though he sustained wounds to his torso, head, neck and both arms, ‘He’s expected to make a full recovery,” Urrea said.
The injuries could have been worse if not for the officer’s bullet-proof vest, Urrea said.
CHP officials thanked West Covina police, other agencies and medical professions who assisted helped in the aftermath of the shooting.
“This part incident could have happened in any city in California. We were blessed to be there at the right time and have the opportunity to get involved and assist in apprehending the suspect.,” West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner said.
Faulkner also thanked the numerous other agencies who took part in the apprehension and arrest.
Garcia was ordered back to court Oct. 27 for a preliminary hearing setting, Risling said. Bail was set at $2.075 million.
PHOTOS: [TOP] – Alleged gunman John Garcia, 30, of Fontana opens fire on two CHP officers after being pulled over in West Covina on Friday, Sept. 11, 2014. (Courtesy of the CHP) [CENTER] – CHP Officer Felix Serpas approaches an SUV moments before being shot and wounded. (Courtesy of the CHP) [BELOW] – CHP shooting suspect John Alfred Garcia, 30, of Fontana. (Courtesy of the CHP)