A 29-year-old ex-con, suspected of being the driver who led police on a three-hour pursuit on Southern California roadways and was seen striking his passenger, was taken back into custody late Friday, according to two law enforcements source close to the case.
Alexis Leonardo Avina was located by probation officers in Buena Park and booked into the Orange County Jail.
Two nights earlier, Avina had been booked by South Gate Police for felony evading and domestic violence. But Friday morning he walked out of jail after $125,000 bail was posted. He had only a few hours of freedom before the Orange County Probation Department arrested him for violating the terms of his last release from prison. Individuals accused of parole or probation violations are not entitled to bail release.
Video from Southern California's police pursuits and follow-ups on what happened after the chase
It was not immediately clear why the Probation Department had not taken action earlier, before Avina's release. Probation records are shielded by privacy laws to the extent that departments are reluctant even to confirm having jurisdiction over any particular individual. One law enforcement source with knowledge of Avina's case said the usual channels of communication that keep a probation department informed within its own county are not always as effective when an individual under supervision is arrested in a different county, as happened with Avina.
Since 2008, Avina has served three prison terms for three separate felony convictions for weapons violations, and in the first incident, assault with a firearm, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Two years ago, after completing his most recent term, he was placed on Post release community supervision (PRCS) by the Probation Department for Orange County, where he was living. Under the AB 109 realignment passed in 2011, felons convicted of certain crimes are eligible for PRCS, instead of supervision by state Parole.
Since 2017, Avina has been cited in Los Angeles Country for a misdemeanor drug violation, and also for driving under the influence. The cases became more serious when he failed to appear as scheduled in court for both cases, and bench warrants were issued, according to Superior Court records reviewed by NBC4.
As it happened, Avina resolved both of those cases — without jail time — with a plea bargain when he finally appeared in court in West Covina on Wednesday — only hours before the pursuit.
It began after a South Gate police officer was flagged down by a motorist who reported seeing the driver of a Honda sedan striking his passenger, according to Det. Sgt. Ismael Ververa. The officer quickly caught up with a suspect vehicle that refused to pull over. During the next three hours, with news helicopters broadcasting live, the driver could be seen repeatedly striking his passenger, described by police as a girlfriend. She was later transported to a hospital to be treated for cuts and bruises before being discharged.
Police believe Avina had taken the Honda from the victim, who had borrowed it from a friend, and that she attempted to stop him when he took the keys.
With Avina's history of serious crimes and failures to appear, concerns were raised Friday after his release.
"That for us is a very serious issue of safety, said Yvette Lozano, Chief Programs and Operations Officer for Peace of Violence, an organization that advocates for violence prevention and offers assistance to victims of domestic violence. "I have a lot of questions about this case."
At one point during the pursuit, the passenger door opened, but the woman did not exit before the Honda sped up again.
The pursuit finally came to an end when the Honda pulled into a Rowland Heights shopping center, and the driver ran inside a 99 Cents Only store. Officers followed with long-barrel weapons, and soon after the suspect identified as Avina was led out in handcuffs.
The suspect drove on streets and freeways, running red lights and at times taking to the wrong side of the street, narrowly missing other vehicles and pedestrians. He drove into Orange County before heading back to Los Angeles County. At one point, he drove through a park and plowed through a fence. The CHP took over from South Gate Police as the lead pursuing agency before the Honda reached Rowland Heights.
The Los Angeles District Attorney's is reviewing the South Gate Police investigation to determine which charges to file, and afterward, Avina would be transferred from Orange County back to Los Angeles County for prosecution.