Editor’s note: This story has been updated. Suspect Antonio Padilla Jr., 37, of Palm Desert was charged Wed., Feb. 28, with multiple felonies and misdemeanors that, if he is convicted, come with a maximum sentence of 120 years in prison, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Padilla is a third-striker parolee whose past convictions include first-degree robbery in 1998 in Orange County, making criminal threats in 2006 in Riverside, unlawful possession of a firearm in 2007, burglary in Riverside in 2011, and inflicting corporal injury in Riverside in 2017, according to an OCDA news release.
In addition, Garden Grove PD Motor Officer Kathy Anderson met injured K9 Puskas of the Santa Ana PD and his handler, Officer Luis Galeana, on Wed., Feb 28. A photo of Puskas, who remains in recovery, has been added at the bottom of this post.
By Greg Hardesty
She only had a second or two to act.
Garden Grove Police Department Motor Officer Kathy Anderson was writing a ticket for two traffic violations around 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 18 when the unexpected happened.
The driver of the black truck, pulled over for speeding and having expired registration tags, turned on the ignition.
For a moment, Anderson — standing behind and to the side of the truck, near her BMW motorcycle in a small parking lot of an industrial business complex at Trask Avenue and Taft Street — thought the driver wanted to run the air conditioner.
“Turn the truck off, we’re not done yet,” Anderson yelled at the driver.
When she saw the white rear lights of the 2016 GMC Sierra flash on, she knew he was preparing to bolt.
It happened so fast.
The driver jerked out of the parking space in reverse, flipped the truck into drive, then barreled toward Anderson, who was standing between her bike and the front of the businesses.
The only way out of the parking lot was through her.
“Expedite units!” Anderson said into her radio, calling for backup.
She drew her weapon and ordered the driver to stop.
“He just floored it,” Anderson said. “The back tires were spinning. I had to jump out of the way so I wouldn’t get hit.”
As he zoomed past Anderson, who was holding his registration and driver’s license, the driver yelled:
“Don’t (shoot me)! My daughter’s been kidnapped!”
The driver ran over a planter and sidewalk before speeding south on Taft Street.
“I absolutely feared for my life,” Anderson recalled Tuesday, Feb. 27 at the scene of the incident, where skid marks from the black truck remained visible. “I had very little time to react.”
Anderson’s traffic stop ignited a nine-day search of the driver by a team of Garden Grove PD detectives that culminated Monday, Feb. 26 in a high-speed pursuit from Santa Ana to Irvine that ended with a dramatic takedown of the driver, who had carjacked a black Audi from a female and struck several cars, by a Santa Ana PD K9.
Antonio Padilla Jr., 37, of Riverside County, faces numerous felony charges, including carjacking and assault with a deadly weapon on Anderson.
Santa Ana PD K9 Puskas, an 8-year-old Dutch Shepherd, lost all of his upper and lower teeth, with the exception of his canine teeth, in the bloody takedown of Padilla, who when Anderson pulled him over was wanted for a parole violation out of Riverside County.
On Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 27, Puskas had surgery at Yorba Regional Animal Hospital in Anaheim. He is expected to return to work after he recovers.
Padilla, who was on parole under the Post Release Community Supervision program, had been driving 55 miles per hour in a 40-mph zone eastbound on Trask Avenue when Anderson, a veteran GGPD motor officer, pulled him over in the parking lot across from Mitchell Elementary School.
“Because I was writing two citations, I think he got spooked,” she said of why she believes he sped away. “There was no stopping this guy. He just didn’t care.”
The truck was registered to Padilla’s girlfriend, and Anderson had no idea he was wanted when she was citing him.
“He should have been locked up,” Anderson said. “There’ s no way he should have been on the streets.”
Instead, GGPD detectives spent more than a week working tirelessly to find Padilla.
GGPD detectives quickly got eyes on the truck outside his girlfriend’s home in Thousand Palms, in the Coachella Valley in Riverside County.
GGPD detectives made contact with her, but she was evasive and uncooperative, GGPD spokesman Lt. Carl Whitney said.
GGPD investigators were in unmarked cars when they spotted the black truck in the parking lot of a Bank of America on Monday afternoon.
They saw Padilla’s girlfriend exit the bank and get into the front passenger seat, but they couldn’t identify the driver because the windows were tinted dark, Whitney said.
They notified the Santa Ana PD to make a traffic stop for the tinted windows and the paper car dealership license plates that had replaced the real license plates that were on the truck when Anderson made her traffic stop.
She was at home with her 9-year-old daughter when Monday’s dramatic car pursuit unfolded.
Her sister called her and told her to turn on Channel 4, telling Anderson she thought they were chasing her suspect.
What are you talking about?
At first, she wasn’t sure it was the same truck, but as soon as TV reporters mentioned the driver was wanted for assault with a deadly weapon on a GGPD officer, she knew it was Padilla.
“It was like Super Bowl Sunday,” Anderson said of watching the pursuit. “I was jumping up and down saying, ‘Get him! Get him!’”
Anderson, like many, was relieved when Padilla was taken down.
“I was so happy,” she said. “Everyone was working on this night and day. They sacrificed time away from their families and put all of their other cases aside. They made this guy their priority. They wanted to get him off the streets.”
Anderson praised investigators and officers and deputies from various agencies — the Irvine and Santa Ana PDs, the California Highway Patrol and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department — who worked on the pursuit and arrest of Padilla.
“It was such a team collaboration of, ‘Let’s find this guy and get him off the street,’” Anderson said. “We knew he was dangerous.”
Whitney said he’s proud of the teamwork displayed by all agencies involved in the incident.
“And that dog was just a missile, the way he took down Padilla, a big guy at 6 feet 4 inches and 250 pounds,” Whitney said.
Padilla remains in the hospital recovering from two deep lacerations to his right arm that required surgery.
Anderson said if Padilla had remained at the scene after she pulled him over, the outcome would have been much different.
“He would have just gotten a ticket,” she said.
On Wednesday, Feb. 28, Anderson mett with Santa Ana K9 Officer Luis Galeana and Puskas.
“I want to thank them in person,” she said.
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Categories: Garden Grove