RIVERSIDE, Calif. - A 35-year-old man who used a BB gun to blow out the windows on cars in a day-long spree of attacks along Southern California roadways pleaded guilty Monday to three counts of assault with a deadly weapon and was immediately sentenced to 10 years in state prison.
Jesse Leal Rodriguez of Anaheim admitted the felony counts under a plea agreement with the Riverside County District Attorney's Office. In exchange for his admissions, prosecutors dropped three related charges.
Rodriguez entered the guilty plea while appearing for a post- preliminary hearing arraignment at the Riverside Hall of Justice. Riverside County Superior Court Sean Crandell certified the terms of the deal and imposed the sentence stipulated by the prosecution and defense.
The defendant was arrested in May 2021 after his vehicle was identified in connection with an attack in Norco and similar incidents that occurred later on the 91 Freeway.
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"Shooting at moving vehicles with a BB or pellet gun while traveling at high speed on our roads and freeways is incredibly dangerous," District Attorney Mike Hestrin said after the defendant was arrested. "Shooting out windows of cars could easily startle drivers in traffic and cause a major accident. We are all relieved that no one was seriously injured by these crimes."
According to the California Highway Patrol, about 1:30 p.m. on May 25, a Tesla occupied by three people was passing the intersection of Hamner Avenue and Hidden Valley Parkway in Norco when it came under fire. A window was shattered, but no one in the sedan was hurt.
The Tesla's video system captured the vehicle from which the BBs were fired -- a maroon Chevrolet Trailblazer, according to the D.A.'s office. The images were supplied to county sheriff's deputies, who responded to the shooting.
That same day, Rodriguez also targeted a woman driving on the 91 Freeway near Tyler Street, shooting through the passenger-side rear window of her sedan.
"The victim had been looking behind her to the right to change lanes and saw a maroon Chevrolet Trailblazer," according to a statement from the D.A.'s office "She later identified it as the same vehicle (captured) in the Tesla camera system."
In a final attack about 9 p.m. on the 91 freeway, near Magnolia Avenue, the defendant shot out the rear window on another woman's car, prompting her to call 911, providing details that ultimately led Riverside police to the parking area of the Galleria at Tyler mall 30 minutes later, prosecutors said.
Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback said that officers spotted the SUV and detained Rodriguez, who was turned over to the CHP, culminating in his arrest.
"A BB gun, BBs and other related items were found in his vehicle," according to the D.A.'s office.
A possible motive for his actions was not disclosed.
It remains unconfirmed whether Rodriguez was one of the perpetrators, or the sole party involved, in the estimated 100 attacks on the 91 and other corridors between mid-April and late May 2021 in Riverside, Orange and Los Angeles counties.
Footage from multiple Caltrans cameras and other evidence was turned over to the CHP for processing, but by the time of the defendant's preliminary in March, there were no new developments.
Court records show Rodriguez had prior convictions in Orange County for criminal street gang activity, possession of a loaded firearm and being a convicted felon in possession of a gun.