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Man charged for Cathedral City armed kidnapping pleads not guilty

INDIO, Calif. - A suspected gang member who allegedly tried to kidnap a man at gunpoint pleaded not guilty Wednesday to kidnapping and assault charges.

Enrique Jose Luis Fernandez, 23, of Cathedral City, is accused of trying to force a man into a car at gunpoint in the parking lot of a Circle K store on Ramon Road in Cathedral City about 2 a.m. on Oct. 25. Fernandez allegedly pointed a semi-automatic .380 handgun at the victim's stomach and 
forced him to walk toward a vehicle, but the man was able to get away and Fernandez fled in a car, possibly with a woman, according to an arrest warrant declaration.

Cathedral City police Cmdr. Julio Luna alleged that the kidnap attempt stemmed from Fernandez's mistaken belief that the victim -- whose name was withheld -- was involved in the theft of a purse.

Witness statements and surveillance footage from the Circle K were used to identify Fernandez as the suspect, according to the arrest warrant declaration.

One day after a warrant was issued for his arrest on charges of kidnapping, assault with a firearm and firearm possession, Fernandez was spotted near the swimming pool outside the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa in Cabazon. Casino security alerted sheriff's deputies of Fernandez's presence, but he was gone by the time they arrived, according to the sheriff's department.

Read: Man wanted for armed kidnapping arrested at Thousand Palms Motel 6

Deputies found Fernandez at 2:40 a.m. Monday at a Motel 6 on Varner Road in Thousand Palms and took him into custody, and later that day located the gun allegedly used in the aborted kidnapping at the casino, Luna said.

Fernandez, who's being held at the Riverside County jail in Indio in lieu of $1 million bail, will return to court Nov. 20 for a felony settlement conference.

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