A convicted felon who allegedly dragged a deputy through a Moreno Valley parking lot when the lawman attempted to reach into the suspect's car and detain him for illegal drug use was charged today with assault on a peace officer and other felonies.
Robert Anthony Caspari, 31, is also accused of leading law enforcement officers on a high-speed pursuit from Moreno Valley to Riverside that ended with the defendant crashing his vehicle into a police car.
Along with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer, Caspari is charged with reckless driving and possession of illegal drugs, both felonies, as well as being a potential five-strike felon.
The defendant, who's being held in lieu of $190,000 bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside, was slated to make his initial court appearance this afternoon.
The confrontation with the deputy, whose identity was not released, occurred around 10:50 a.m. last Thursday in the parking lot of a 99 Cent Only store at Cottonwood Avenue and Perris Boulevard.
The deputy spotted two men in a white four-door Dodge Neon behaving suspiciously and approached to investigate, according to reports from the scene. When he looked inside, the deputy said two suspects appeared to be shooting up with heroin and he tried to arrest the driver, who immediately floored the sedan, dragging the deputy about 10 feet and possibly running over one of his legs.
Sheriff's personnel immediately fanned out across the city in a search for the Neon, which was spotted about 15 minutes later idling in an alleyway off of Alessandro Boulevard, near March Air Reserve Base. It was occupied only by the driver, who raced out of the alley -- nearly striking a sheriff's patrol unit -- and headed onto northbound Interstate 215.
Deputies pursued the Neon into the city of Riverside, where the chase reached speeds of 90 mph as Caspari allegedly fled north on Martin Luther King Boulevard and then over to University Avenue before heading onto the westbound Riverside (91) Freeway.
He exited the freeway at Central Avenue, blasting past the Riverside Plaza shopping center and turning back west on Magnolia Avenue, with sheriff's units, Riverside police and a California Highway Patrol officer in pursuit.
According to Riverside police, a patrol car rammed the Neon at Brockton and Magnolia avenues, at which point Caspari attempted to flee on foot but was quickly apprehended.
The whereabouts of the second suspect, described only as a Hispanic man wearing an L.A. Lakers basketball jersey, remain unknown.
The hobbled deputy was transported to Riverside County Regional Medical Center in Moreno Valley, where he was treated for a non-life-threatening leg injury.
According to court records, Caspari has a string of felony convictions, including for illegal possession of drugs, burglary and statutory rape.