A man wearing a Jesus-style Halloween costume was captured on surveillance video last week punching a San Diego police officer in the face during an unprovoked attack in the Gaslamp Quarter. On Tuesday, that man was arrested all the way in Idaho.
Eric Van Vleet, 24, is accused of ambushing a police officer in the early morning hours of Nov. 1 in downtown San Diego.
San Diego Police Department Lt. Dan Smyth said the officer – a 3-year veteran of the police department – was working with the Central Division Gaslamp Enforcement Team to break up a large fight involving several people near the Urban India restaurant at Fifth Avenue and F Street.
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The officer was trying to arrest a man involved in that fight when Van Vleet – who had nothing to do with the brawl – yelled “some anti-police rhetoric,” ran up to the officer, and attacked him. Smyth said Van Vleet struck the officer in the face and the officer was temporarily dazed.
Van Vleet then fled the scene.
The entire thing was captured on surveillance cameras belonging to the restaurant. The clip shows passersby stopping to watch the brawl. Among those people was Van Vleet, police said. In the video, he is seen wearing a costume that included a long, belted robe.
SDPD detectives combed through the video following the incident and identified the suspect in the officer’s attack as Van Vleet.
“Their investigation also determined the attack was entirely unprovoked, based on the statements of several independent civilian witnesses,” Smyth added.
The SDPD placed a nationwide extraditable arrest warrant on Van Vleet for battery against an officer with serious injury and use of force against an officer with injury.
With that, law enforcement launched a search for the suspect.
On Tuesday night, Van Vleet was arrested in Idaho by the Cassia County Idaho Sheriff’s Department. The SDPD said he remained in custody in Cassia County Wednesday but would be extradited to San Diego to face charges in the assault of the officer.
The SDPD officer who was hurt in the attack required several stitches. His name was not released by the department. The motive for the attack remains unknown.