Traffic on Highway 152 was at a standstill Tuesday evening after officers used a Taser on a suspect who was reportedly under the influence of alcohol while shooting a pellet gun at drivers as he was pushing a disabled vehicle eastbound.
The pellet gun initially looked like a real gun to officers while confronting 24-year-old Castroville resident Diego Espinoza, causing them to draw their weapons, California Highway Patrol Los Banos Area Officer Lance Velez said.
At about 4:40 p.m. Tuesday, CHP officers responded to initial reports of two people obstructing traffic while pushing a vehicle on the right lane of eastbound Highway 152, on a bridge east of the Interstate 5 interchange, Velez said.
While en route, officers were advised that one of the men pushing the car was pointing a gun and shooting at passing vehicles, Velez said. The first officer arriving saw two men pushing a black Chrysler 300. The officer drew a weapon but didn’t point it at the subject, Velez said.
Never miss a local story.
Espinoza and the other suspect, 27-year-old Jose Arreola of Watsonville, put their hands up in the air when instructed.
Velez said officers told the suspects to raise their shirts to reveal if they were concealing any weapons. Arreola complied and didn’t display any weapons. He was taken into custody.
Espinoza refused to comply at first. But when he lifted up his shirt, officers saw what appeared to be the handgun, Velez said. They told him to remove the weapon and set it on the car. Espinoza held the handgun with an index finger and thumb, placing it on the car.
As other officers arrived at the scene, Velez said, Espinoza seemed to get agitated and stopped complying with orders.
When Espinoza was away from the car and bridge, an officer deployed a Taser, incapacitating Espinoza and allowing officers to arrest him, officers said.
After the arrest, officers found that the weapon was a BB gun powered by carbon dioxide cartridges.
“It looked authentic,” Velez said, noting that an orange tip that differentiates an air gun with a firearm was not visible. “In this case, if there was something on there, it had been removed.”
Espinoza was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, delaying or obstructing a peace officer and brandishing an imitation firearm.
Arreola was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication.
The incident led to the closing of Highway 152 in both directions. Westbound traffic opened up in an hour, but it took longer for eastbound traffic.
Velez said investigation reports indicate there was one victim in the incident, a Los Banos man. However, additional information on the victim or he was a victim wasn’t available.
“I want to encourage people that if they are a victim of this incident, give us a call so we can list in the the report as well,” Velez said, noting that an investigation is ongoing.
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562