A man that believed he was wanted for a parole violation led Merced County Sheriff’s deputies on a pursuit that wound through areas of Hilmar and Delhi, until it ended with a crash that severely injured the man’s passenger.
Gabriel Armendariz, 29, of Merced was arrested for felony driving under the influence and felony evading, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The passenger in Armendariz’s vehicle was identified as Rachelle Huerta, 26, of Merced. According to the CHP she sustained major injuries from the collision and was taken to Memorial Medical Center.
The incident began around 2 p.m. Friday when a sheriff’s deputy spotted Armendariz at Hagaman Park in Hilmar and went to speak with him. The exchange between Armendariz and the deputy ended quickly when Armendariz ran to his 2000 Honda Civic and sped away.
The deputy gave chase after Armendariz, with the high speed pursuit winding its way through Hilmar, including at a golf course, where Armendariz drove up onto the greens, causing damage to the course, according to the sheriff’s department.
At some point in the pursuit Armendariz doubled back to Hagaman Park and a woman, later identified as Huerta, got into his car.
The sheriff’s department put several schools on lockdown during the chase and decided to call off the pursuit because of a public safety concern.
Around 2:30 p.m. a sheriff’s helicopter found the Honda and relayed the location to deputies.
At Flower Street and Bradbury Road in Delhi Armendariz drove through a posted stop sign and struck a 2011 Kenworth tractor trailer that was headed westbound on Bradbury.
The passenger side of the Honda struck the trailer and spun through the intersection. When it came to a stop Armendariz ran from the vehicle, but was soon located and taken into custody. According to the CHP he was found to be under the influence of a controlled substance. He remains in custody at the Merced County Jail.
The sheriff’s department said Armendariz was not initially wanted for a parole violation.