Friday, August 22, 2008

Police arrest hit-and-run suspects


A witness and a taxi driver teamed up to help police nab a pair of suspects who crashed into a parked car and fled the scene on Santa Barbara’s Westside last weekend, authorities said.
The incident began early Sunday morning, when police received reports of a traffic accident in the 1400 block of San Andres St. En route, officers learned that one of the vehicles had left the area.

A nearby resident who had stepped outside after hearing a loud crash spotted a vehicle on its side, Sgt. Lorenzo Duarte of the Santa Barbara Police Department said. The witness watched as two suspects got out of a black Nissan behind the flipped vehicle and appeared to survey the damage.
“The driver, later identified as Herman Ortega, 20, yelled at the passenger, later identified as Cesar Ojendis, 20, and then both got back in the car,” Sgt. Duarte said. “The Nissan then left the scene with the witness following on foot.”
As he pursued the fleeing suspects, the witness flagged down a passing taxicab and hopped in, directing the driver to follow the Nissan, authorities said.
With the chase nearing Figueroa Street and Walnut Avenue, the Nissan caught fire and slowed to a stop, Sgt. Duarte said. Both suspects jumped out of the car and began to run away, police said, but the witness managed to tackle the driver.

As a scuffle began, Ojendis threw a beer bottle at the witness, hitting him in the shoulder, authorities said. The fight continued with the witness battling both Ojendis and Ortega, Sgt. Duarte said.
The taxi driver, after calling police on his cell phone, began sprinting after Ojendis as the suspect fled on foot again, police said. Officers arrived in the area and spotted the suspect being chased by the taxi driver along the 500 block of W. Anapamu St.
“The taxi driver pointed to Ojendis and said, ‘That’s the guy,’” Sgt. Duarte said. “Officers ordered Ojendis to stop running but he didn’t comply.”
Police caught up to the suspect and tackled him to the ground, taking him into custody after a brief struggle. Officers also came to the aid of the witness, taking Ortega into custody, Sgt. Duarte said.
Ortega exhibited symptoms of being under the influence of alcohol, authorities said, and officers arrested him for felony DUI causing injury. He received treatment for face and upper body lacerations before being booked into jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Police also arrested Ojendis for assault with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest — taking him to the hospital after he complained of back, chest and neck pain before booking him into County Jail.
Authorities determined the vehicle that flipped onto its side had been parked along the street, Sgt. Duarte said. The taxi driver told police he had noticed the Nissan pass him at a high rate of speed prior to the crash.
The witness that fought with both men complained of pain to his head and neck, Sgt. Duarte said, but declined medical attention.

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