Indio man ordered to trial in shooting that targeted 3 officers

David Anthony Hurtado accused of phoning in a 'hit' on officers who'd stopped him for DUI

POSTED: 06:30 AM PST Feb 01, 2013    UPDATED: 06:44 AM PST Feb 01, 2013 
David Anthony Hurtado Coachella shooting suspect involving CHP officers Nov. 25, 2012
INDIO, Calif. -

An Indio man accused in a shooting that allegedly targeted three law enforcement officers in Indio was ordered Thursday to stand trial.

David Anthony Hurtado Jr., 35, was arrested last Nov. 28 on suspicion of involvement in the Nov. 25 shooting, in which bullets were fired at two California Highway Patrol officers conducting a traffic stop and a Border Patrol agent who stopped to help.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey L. Gunther ruled there was enough evidence for Hurtado to stand trial following a preliminary hearing at Indio's Larson Justice Center. Hurtado is charged with three counts of attempted murder of a police officer. At today's hearing, Gunther dismissed one felony count of participating in a criminal street gang, which was originally filed with the other charges.

The CHP officers were investigating a suspected DUI involving Hurtado around 12:25 a.m. that day on Cabazon Avenue west of Dillon Road. Hurtado, who later told authorities he'd been drinking, was in a Dodge Ram pickup truck with another man and asked the officers who stopped him if he could go to the bathroom. He went to a nearby fence to do so, and roughly five minutes later shots were fired from a sedan that was turning right from Avenue 48 onto Dillon, Indio police Detective Dan Marshall testified. He said there were likely three people in the car.

Deputy District Attorney Jake Silva said Hurtado is the only person currently charged in the case and authorities are still investigating.

After testimony, Silva argued there were "an abundance" of cell phone records linking Hurtado to the shooting. He started making calls as he was pulled over, his phone was traced to a tower in the area and calls continued until the sedan arrived in the area, roughly five minutes before the shooting.

"The intent of the shooter is to kill whoever's over there ... and the reason the shooter is there is because Mr. Hurtado called them, and that's based on the evidence," Silva said.

He said nothing happened until Hurtado got out of the truck, and likely did so to get out of the line of fire.

Hurtado's attorney, Aimee Larsen, argued that people in the area of the shooting included Hurtado and his passenger, and Hurtado was with an officer when he got out of the truck to go to the bathroom.

Was he suicidal? It makes no sense," she said.

Larsen said the prosecution's theory was Hurtado knew someone he could call to come to the location and carry out the shooting.

"There's no evidence of specific intent at all," she said.

She said the shooting happened in the dark, and from a distance.

"Everything about this situation makes the shooting inaccurate," she said.

Before he issued his ruling, Gunther said it was a circumstantial case, "but a strong circumstantial case."

"There are too many dots, and those dots do connect," he said. "... Thankfully the officers were not killed or injured. This is a serious act."

Indio police spokesman Ben Guitron said in December that the Border Patrol officer had stopped to help the CHP officers "when numerous rapid gunshots were heard coming from just east of the officers' location."

The officers and the driver and passenger of the vehicle they had stopped took cover, and they saw a light-colored car stopped in the intersection of Dillon and Cabazon, Guitron said. No one was hit.

"It was determined the gunfire was directed towards all three law enforcement officers," Guitron said.

On Nov. 28, Hurtado was spotted in a vehicle at Avenue 48 and Jackson Street, and authorities conducted a traffic stop and arrested him in a shopping center parking lot in Coachella, Guitron said.

Hurtado is being held at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside on $1 million bail. He is due back in court on Feb. 14 for a post-preliminary hearing arraignment.