latest news Motorists assist a CHP officer who was attacked at the entrance to Highway 5
Everardo Navarro says he didn’t have time to think last week when he saw a California Highway Patrol motorcyclist pinned to the ground by a man at an entrance to Highway 5 in Orange County .
“I just jumped,” Navarro said.
The 42-year-old got out of his car and drove through traffic toward the Main Street on-ramp in Santa Ana, where two other drivers joined him to help the officer, who was being beaten on Friday , according to the CHP. The three managed to drag the suspect out of the officer, allowing the officer to make an arrest.
Navarro was unaware that the entire exchange had been recorded on a cell phone by a witness.
Navarro saw the video which first went viral on Tuesday. A day later, he was still in shock and worried about what might have happened to the officer had someone not intervened.
“I don’t think the officer was able to take control of this situation on his own, because the guy was very, very strong,” Navarro said.
The incident began when officers responded after 5 p.m. to reports that a man yelled at motorists and attempted to remove a 5 Freeway sign from a pole, the CHP said. Officers approached the suspect, later identified as Jaime Balderas Paniagua, 34, of Santa Ana, according to Officer Anselmo Templado, a CHP spokesman.
Paniagua initially cooperated with their commands and the officers gave him a warning, according to the CHP. They told him not to walk on the freeway or on the ramp.
Paniagua was allowed to leave, but as one of the officers drove away on his motorbike, Paniagua returned to the on-ramp and confronted the officer, the CHP said.
Navarro saw the officer order Paniagua off the highway. But as he drove away, Navarro could see in his rearview mirror that they were still arguing.
“Something about that made me want to see the arrest,” said Navarro, who was driving with a passenger to an event in Santa Ana.
He turned his car around and headed back to the on-ramp.
In the video, Paniagua can be seen talking to the officer with his arms behind his back. The officer walks away from the ramp and tries to touch Paniagua’s shoulder, but he slaps the officer’s hand. The two fight against each other and the officer knocks Paniagua to the ground but also falls, and Paniagua manages to get on top of him, as shown in the video.
As Navarro ran towards the two men on the ground, he said, neither of them said anything. All he could hear was the sound of their struggle and passing cars.
Navarro said Paniagua’s forearm was pressed against the officer’s throat and Navarro could see that the officer could only move his legs. Navarro threw a punch into Paniagua’s ribs, but Navarro said it didn’t make much of a difference.
“My feeling was he didn’t even feel it,” Navarro said. “He had no intention of stopping”
Navarro struggled to grab Paniagua’s hand and pull him away from the officer. Two other drivers got out of their car and were able to assist Navarro. The officer and the other three men managed to pin Paniagua to the ground at the end of the video.
The officer does not appear injured, just out of breath, Navarro said.
“The first words he said to us were just, ‘Thank you. Thank you guys,'” Navarro said.
The officer has since returned to duty, Templado said.
Paniagua was incarcerated in the Orange County Jail on multiple counts, including assault and battery against a peace officer and resisting arrest, according to the CHP. The Orange County district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the charges.
Aside from a short conversation Navarro had with his passenger about what happened, he did not discuss it later that night.
The attack and the rescue of the officer took place in less than a minute, according to the video. But in Navarro’s mind, the exchange unfolds in slow motion and vivid detail.
He is conflicted about how he feels about the whole situation. Navarro, who was born in the Mexican state of Jalisco and has lived in California for 24 years, said he would not call himself a hero.
The day after he helped the officer, Navarro told his children he loved them and explained to them what had happened.
“I want to tell them that their father made the right decision, the right decision,” he said.