Allegedly led SD chief on car chase; fled the scene

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

SAN DIEGO - Officials with the San Diego Police Department are searching for a Benavides man who allegedly fled from officers after one of the tires of his vehicle was shot out by the San Diego chief of police last week.

According to San Diego police reports, the incident began Tuesday shortly before 10 a.m., while SDPD Chief Joe Olvera was on radar patrol on Highway 359 on the south side of San Diego.

Olvera received a radio report of a four-door Mercury vehicle that was traveling north bound on Highway 359 from Benavides, possibly carrying illegal immigrants, according to the report.

After reportedly observing the vehicle speeding through the city, Olvera initiated a traffic stop in the 200 block of Springfield Ave.

The male driver of the vehicle, a female passenger and two male passengers all refused to identify themselves to Olvera, according to the report, and the driver allegedly became agitated and began cursing at Olvera.

The driver reportedly refused to place his hands on the steering wheel, which led Olvera to draw his service revolver and order the occupants from the vehicle. According to the report, the driver then allegedly reached into the center console of the vehicle, which led Olvera to back away from the vehicle while ordering the driver to put his hands in view.

The driver then allegedly accelerated the vehicle toward Olvera, and Olvera fired a single shot at the car, striking the left rear tire.

"When he reached in between the seat, I didn't know if he was going for a gun or what," Olvera said Friday. "When he took off, if I hadn't moved back, the side mirror of the car would have hit me."

The vehicle continued on the destroyed tire for a short distance, before coming to a stop near County Road 149 and Farm-to-Market Road 3087.

All four occupants of the vehicle then abandoned the car and fled into the brush.

A search was conducted by the San Diego Police Department, the Duval County Sheriff's Department, the Jim Wells County Sheriff's Department, the United States Border Patrol and the Duval County Task Force, but was called off several hours later when no suspects were located.

A subsequent investigation led officers to identify the driver as Ruben Raul Vela Jr., 41, of Benavides.

Vela reportedly has an existing arrest warrant for a motion to revoke regarding a previous charge of driving while intoxicated.

Olvera said the department was seeking an additional arrest warrant for Vela, charging him with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, evading arrest with a motor vehicle and failure to identify.

No arrests had been made in the case by Friday evening.