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Road rage suspect comes in

The San Bernardino man surrenders in the shooting of Gabriel Garcia, 12, on a freeway near Devore after angry words between drivers.

December 15, 2006|Jonathan Abrams | Times Staff Writer

Twelve-year-old Gabriel Garcia was an innocent passenger riding down Interstate 15 on Monday afternoon when a sudden lane change led to a 60-mph shouting match, a brief chase and finally gunfire that left him grievously wounded.

On Thursday, the San Bernardino man accused of being involved in the alleged road rage shooting near Devore, leaving Gabriel wounded in the head and leg, surrendered to authorities.

Pedro Escobedo, 43, was booked on a single count of attempted murder, and if Gabriel dies, the suspect will face a murder charge, said San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Beavers.

Gabriel, who is from Hesperia, is not expected to survive and will be taken off life support once doctors find recipients for his organs, officials said.

"We can say for sure that Escobedo was the driver," Beavers said. "The investigation has not ruled him out as the shooter. Maybe after his interview is completed, it will be a little clearer."

Gabriel was a passenger in a black Nissan Maxima on Monday heading south on Interstate 15 in Devore when the driver of his car allegedly got into a verbal altercation with Escobedo, who was driving a white Ford Explorer.

Escobedo allegedly fired several shots into the Nissan and continued to follow it on the freeway. The Nissan's driver eventually stopped in a Mira Loma shopping center.

The Nissan was riddled with at least 10 bullet holes, but no one else was wounded, officials said.

Gabriel was taken by ambulance to Riverside Community Hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery.

Escobedo, who on Thursday wore a dark sweatshirt with its hood covering much of his face when he turned himself in, is being held in lieu of $5-million bail. His arraignment is scheduled for today.

Paul F. Opel, Escobedo's attorney, declined to say how his client would plead at his arraignment.

"Everyone in his family, including Mr. Escobedo, thought that this would be in his best interest," Opel said.

"He's here to voluntarily surrender and answer any charges the district attorney's office may file."

With Gabriel considered brain-dead, officials are expecting to remove him from life support any day.

Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson said a suspect can still be charged with murder even if the victim dies after life support is removed by hospital personnel.

It's not likely that a defense attorney can successfully challenge that, she said.

"It's a real long shot," she said. "They'll raise the argument that he wasn't the cause, but this is not the type of intervening factor that will get him off the hook."

Meanwhile, officials are investigating comments made by an emergency dispatch operator who admonished a witness for not following the alleged shooter.

On the 911 call, the operator is heard telling the witness, who saw the shooting while driving on the interstate, that she should have followed the car instead of stopping to inform a California Highway Patrol officer.

"If you would have stayed on the line with me, it would have helped out a lot faster than you guys stopping," the dispatcher said in the call. "Do you not understand that I have communication with officers, and now you're no longer behind them and now we'll never catch them?"

Officer Mario Lopez, a Highway Patrol spokesman in the Inland division dispatch center, said the agency's policy is to avoid putting witnesses in harm's way by not having them chase after suspects.

jonathan.abrams@latimes.com

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