A man in the United States illegally, told deputies he was fleeing “cartel members,” and that’s why he led them on a high-speed chase.
Juan Lopez-Medina, 42, of Mexico, was booked into the Pinal County jail Sunday, after leading deputies on a high-speed chase along Interstate 10 and Casa Grande, Sgt. Pat Ramirez, spokesman for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, said in a news release.
At about 1:40 a.m. Sunday, a deputy on patrol saw a black 2007 Pontiac four-door sedan with only one headlight, traveling westbound in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 10, near the Florence Boulevard exit in the city limits of Casa Grande.
“The deputy immediately activated his law enforcement red and blue emergency lights and began pursuing the vehicle while attempting to warn eastbound traffic of the oncoming danger,” Ramirez said.
During the chase, the deputy called for assistance from the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Gila River Police Department.
During the chase, speeds fluctuated between 35 and 75 miles per hour and the Pontiac crossed back and forth from the westbound lanes to the oncoming eastbound lanes.
Officers laid spikes in the road to deflate the Pontiac’s front tires, but Lopez-Medina kept driving. He also attempted to ram law enforcement vehicles with his car.
The Pontiac was still driving the wrong way when it exited the interstate eastbound at the Casa Blanca ramp. The driver continued westbound on Bapchule Road until eventually stopping in the yard of a home in the 900 block of Snake Hill Road on the Gila River Reservation.
As Lopez-Medina ran from the car into the home, the deputy noticed the passenger seat was on fire and the car was almost immediately engulfed in flames.
The deputy and an officer from the Gila River Police Department evacuated the home and found Lopez-Medina hiding in a bathroom. When he refused officer’s commands to come out, a sheriff’s canine was sent in to get him.
He was taken to the Gila River Police Department where he was processed for driving under the influence of a drug and he gave a false name. He was later taken the United States Border Patrol office in Casa Grande, where he was positively identified, Ramirez said.
Lopez-Medina “told a deputy he was fleeing from cartel members that were trying to harm him, he drove in the opposing lane of Interstate 10 to avoid being captured by them. He claimed he did not realize the red and blue emergency lights pursuing him were law enforcement officers.”
He was booked into the Pinal County jail and faces charges of aggravated assault, unlawful flight from a pursuing law enforcement vehicle and endangerment.
Lopez-Medina is in the county illegally and has been deported to Mexico multiple times, said Sheriff Paul Babeu. He also has multiple felony convictions in Arizona and California. Past felony charges include: auto theft, possession of stolen property, felon in possession of a firearm, burglary, firearm in a public place and transporting a controlled substance.