VALLEY CENTER–Authorities arrested a man who led Sheriff’s deputies on a vehicle pursuit on Highway 76 and crashed into a North County Transit bus.
The driver, identified as 23-year-old Cesar Lopez, was trapped inside his vehicle. The vehicle momentarily caught fire which was put out by responding firefighters. A handgun was located near Lopez while extracting him from the vehicle. It took firefighters approximately 45 minutes to extract Lopez from the mangled vehicle.
On January 31, just after 4 p.m., Sheriff’s deputies from the Crime Suppression Team observed a white 1999 Dodge Durango driving in the parking lot of the Pala Casino.
The vehicle matched a recent “Be On the Lookout” for a suspect vehicle. When the deputies saw the male driver, he matched the description of a wanted felon known to be in the area and considered “Armed and Dangerous.”
The deputies followed the vehicle as it drove through the parking lot and onto Highway 76. The deputies activated their emergency lights and siren to conduct a traffic stop. The driver increased speed west on Highway 76, initiating a pursuit.
The pursuit lasted approximately two miles at speeds over 80 miles per hour. The deputies lost sight of the vehicle as it sped west on Highway 76. Moments later the deputies discovered the driver had collided with a North County Transit bus traveling the opposite direction at the 10300 Block of Highway 76. The driver of the bus and the lone passenger were taken to Palomar Hospital where they were treated for non-life threatening injuries.
Lopez was found to be in possession of loaded pistol magazines believed to belong to the firearm, suspected methamphetamine, and drug paraphernalia. Additional checks, identification cards, a passport, and other suspected stolen property was located in his vehicle.