Orange County

Man Sentenced to 19 Years in Police Chase That Ended With K-9 Takedown

The Santa Ana police K-9 that helped arrest the man, an 8-year-old Dutch shepherd named Puskas, underwent surgery at a veterinary hospital after his teeth were broken in the take-down.

A 38-year-old convicted robber who led police on a wild chase through Orange County that ended in a struggle with a police dog that lost teeth taking down the suspect pleaded guilty Thursday and was immediately sentenced to 19 years and four months in prison.

Antonio Padilla Jr. of Palm Desert pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon on a police officer, carjacking, assault with a deadly weapon, harming an officer's dog and leading police on a chase, all felonies, according to court records.

As part of the plea deal, single counts each of assault with a deadly weapon and evading police and driving in the opposite direction of traffic, both felonies, were dropped along with three misdemeanor counts of hit and run with property damage.

Last year, when Padilla was charged, prosecutors erroneously thought at the time he was a third striker. His only prior strike was a conviction as a juvenile for first-degree robbery in Orange County in 1998.

The Santa Ana police canine that helped arrest Padilla, an 8-year-old Dutch shepherd named Puskas, underwent surgery at a veterinary hospital, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.

The canine lost all his upper and lower teeth, with the exception of his canine teeth, during the confrontation with the suspect, but returned to work in March of last year.

Padilla had been wanted since Feb. 18 of last year. He was pulled over for speeding that day by a Garden Grove police motorcycle officer. As she was writing him a ticket, Padilla punched the gas and veered toward the officer, who leapt to safety, Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Chrisopoulos said last year.

Padilla was on post-community release supervision at the time for domestic violence, so it is possible that if he had just taken the citation, he would have received a "slap on the wrist,'' but he compounded his legal problems by driving away, the prosecutor said.

The Garden Grove officer had the suspect's driver's license and registration, which investigators used to track down Padilla and place him under surveillance. On Feb. 26 of last year, Santa Ana police officers were asked to pull him over and make the arrest because the Garden Grove officers were in unmarked cars, Bertagna said.

Padilla refused to pull over and led police on a high-speed chase into Irvine, where he abandoned his pickup truck and carjacked a woman's Audio SUV before being taken into custody, authorities said.

The Audi's driver and her brother just avoided being struck by the carjacked vehicle as Padilla sped off, said Garden Grove police Lt. Carl Whitney. Minutes later, the Audi jumped a curb, hit a tree and soon after became disabled near the intersection of Kelvin and Derian avenues, where Padilla ran from the SUV and was arrested after a brief struggle with the police dog, Whitney said.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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