Crime

Man who allegedly claimed to be cartel member, fired gun at eatery pleads not guilty

Man who allegedly claimed to be cartel m

INDIO, Calif. - A man who allegedly claimed to be a member of a drug cartel and fired a gun outside a Cathedral City restaurant pleaded not guilty to multiple felony charges on Wednesday. 

Manuel Ochoa, 22, was arrested Sunday for the alleged February 9 crime outside the Sante Fe Restaurant, located at 68545 Ramon Road. Ochoa faces charges of making criminal threats, discharging a firearm, possession of an assault weapon, carrying a loaded firearm while not being the registered owner and possession of a generally prohibited weapon, according to jail records. 

KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 were in the courtroom as Ochoa made his first appearance. His bail has been set at $95,000 and he's expected back in court on May 12 for a settlement hearing. 


Read Ochoa's arrest record and court information

Ochoa was allegedly at the restaurant just before midnight, but left angrily after an unidentified person punched his godfather, according to a declaration in support of an arrest warrant. He allegedly returned with a loaded, short-barrel AR-15 assault rifle and revolver and demanded to be let back inside to confront the person.

When the restaurant manager wouldn't let him in, Ochoa pointed the revolver into the air and fired a single shot, the declaration states. He then allegedly told the manager that he was a part of a drug cartel and would call his "people" to come "make a mess" of the restaurant if he wasn't allowed inside. 

A waitress called police, which prompted Ochoa to flee in a PT Cruiser that he crashed into a curb near 33rd Avenue and Canyon Vista Road, the declaration states. He ran from the scene and managed to get away from authorities.

Both of the guns were found on Canyon Vista Road. 

Cathedral City police later identified Ochoa as the suspect through the PT Cruiser, which was registered to his sister's ex-husband. Witnesses at the restaurant also identified Ochoa in a photo lineup, according to the declaration. 

Ochoa is being held at the Riverside County Jail in Indio on $50,000 bail. He'll be back in court on May 12. 

Read more crime headlines around the Coachella Valley 

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