Amber alert suspect arrested, 4 boys safe – U

A tense standoff between police and a Montebello man wanted in an Amber Alert and for questioning in his wife’s death ended Thursday morning when SWAT officers stopped him from jumping off a freeway bridge in Santee.

The driver, Daniel Diego Perez, was shot with a beanbag round, tackled and taken into custody shortly before 10 a.m. on the ramp from east state Route 52 to south state Route 67. At the same moment, other officers grabbed two of Perez’s sons, who had gotten out of the car with their father. Early in the standoff, his two other sons had run to officers from the car.

« Where he stopped was our concern, » said CHP Officer Kevin Pearlstein. « Stopping in the middle of the transition road, our concern was that he was going to try and jump over the side and maybe take some of the boys with him. »

Perez, 43, had been sought by police since Saturday for taking his four sons, ages 6, 8, 9 and 11. He was also described as « a person of interest » in the death of his wife, Erica. Her body was found Wednesday night in the trunk of one of the family’s cars, which was parked near a hospital in Montebello.

Police there said their investigators had reason to believe Perez was likely in the San Diego area. Then on Wednesday night they got a signal from a LoJack vehicle tracking device on a Toyota Camry.

El Cajon police picked up a LoJack signal Thursday morning and tracked it to Fayette Street and Vernon Way, said police Lt. Mike Moulton. They confirmed the car was being sought in the Montebello homicide and statewide Amber Alert. The officer who found the car thought it was empty, but it started moving. The officer radioed for more police and tried to pull over the driver about 8:30 a.m., but he raced off.

He sped onto state Route 67 to Interstate 8, then headed north on Route 125, at times going 85 mph with several patrol cars in pursuit.

The California Highway Patrol took over the chase, which lasted about 20 minutes. The car’s driver stopped at the highest point on the Santee freeway bridge, where eastbound Route 52 and southbound Route 67 divide. He parked about five feet from the bridge wall, with a drop of more than 50 feet over the side.

Video: Freeway standoff

An El Cajon police negotiator immediately began talking with Perez. Another negotiator got on the phone with Perez’s family members. In about 10 minutes, two of the boys came out of the Camry and ran to the patrol cars, Pearlstein said.

Negotiations continued for about an hour, then the situation began to deteriorate.

« Something changed in his demeanor, » Pearlstein said. « That’s why we had the (SWAT) team move in. It went from a kind of a barricaded situation to maybe we needed to do something proactive to get the kids out of the car. »

Sheriff’s and El Cajon SWAT officers blocked the front and back of the Toyota with armored vehicles. Two dozen special enforcement officers, some armed with less-lethal weapons, converged toward the car.

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