Ambulance among 8 vehicles chased, rammed by intoxicated man, California Highway Patrol says
Officials say Roderick Weston went on a rampage and targeted vehicles, including an ambulance, to hit with his pickup truck
Vikaas Shanker and Michael McGough
Merced Sun-Star (Merced, Calif.)
MERCED COUNTY, Calif. — A Rocklin man allegedly under the influence of drugs or alcohol went on a driving rampage New Year’s Day in Merced County, chasing and ramming into eight cars, including an ambulance, in the foggy morning before breaking into a Dos Palos area home, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Roderick Weston, 37, was driving a Toyota Tundra southbound on Interstate 5, south of Highway 140, after 3 a.m. when he abruptly stopped, blocking both lanes of traffic, according to a CHP news release.
A Hyundai Sonata behind Weston, driven by North Highlands resident Briana Hawkins, attempted to stop just before colliding with Weston’s Tundra, the release states. Weston reportedly jumped on the Hyundai’s car hood and jumped back off after Hawkins drove away from the Tundra.
Hawkins called 911, but CHP Los Banos officers couldn’t find the suspect when they arrived at the scene, according to the release.
Rampage continued on Highway 152
After the initial crash, dispatchers continued to receive calls Weston was driving erratically on Highway 152.
At about 5:15 a.m., Weston drove west on Highway 152, west of Lodi Avenue, before he rammed into a 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander from behind, the release states. Weston continued in the left lane and side-swiped a 2006 Saturn Ion that was in the right lane as he passed the vehicle.
Abelino Cruz, the Firebaugh resident driving the Saturn, pulled to the right shoulder, according to the release. But Weston stopped, reversed and accelerated quickly, ramming into the front of the Saturn before driving away again.
Suspect rams ambulance, follows driver
About five minutes later, Weston was driving west on Highway 152, west of the San Joaquin River, when he made a U-turn in the center median and targeted an ambulance heading east, the CHP release states.
Ambulance driver Mark Garcines, 24, moved to the right lane when he saw the Tundra make the U-turn. But Weston caught up to the ambulance and rammed it twice.
Garcines stopped the vehicle and called 911, according to the release. But Weston took a U-turn and drove the wrong way on the eastbound lanes before broadsiding the ambulance and driving away from the scene again.
Weston then targeted a Honda CRV being driven east on Highway 152 by Winnie Paongo in the right lane, the release states. Paongo saw the Tundra swerving side-to-side and headed toward her. She swerved to the right shoulder, but the Tundra hit the entire side of her vehicle.
Paongo then drove the wrong-way in the eastbound lanes as she “feared for her life,” but Weston followed her and hit both sides of her Honda CRV, which overturned south of the highway, the release said.
Suspect drives into canal, enters home
Weston then turned off his headlights, drove into the center median and started driving in circles before he hit the back of a 2017 Hyundai Accent being driven by Madera resident Leanndra Gonzalez, whose vehicle was stopped on the north shoulder of Highway 152, west of Highway 33.
Gonzalez tried driving away, but Weston blocked her with the Tundra, reversed and accelerated into the front end of the Hyundai Accent.
It was about 5:30 a.m. at this point, and Weston continued driving circles in the median before heading the wrong way in the eastbound lanes of Highway 152, near Palm Avenue. Weston rammed the driver-side door of a 2019 Honda Civic, driven by Morgan Hill resident Raymond Fernandez, and fled.
A 2018 Dodge Ram being driven by Carmel Valley resident Jacob Rianda picked up Fernandez and his passenger before following Weston west on Highway 152, the release states. But Weston, with his headlights off in the fog, put the Tundra in reverse and sideswiped the oncoming Ram pickup before hitting the truck a second time and fleeing.
Weston then reportedly drove off the roadway into an irrigation canal near Palm Avenue and Azusa Road, according to the release. He then broke into a home on Azusa Road north of Dos Palos, CHP Los Banos Officer Shannon Stiers said.
“He broke into the residence and the owner confronted him, trying to get him out of the house,” Stiers said. A responding Merced County Sheriff’s deputy detained Weston before he was relieved by a CHP Madera officer. The officer transferred custody to the Los Banos CHP office.
No major injuries were reported by any of the victims, the release states.
Suspect owns Northern California business
Weston was arrested on suspicion of DUI, assault with a deadly weapon and breaking and entering, Stiers said. He was in custody Thursday with a $130,000 bond, according to Merced County jail records.
Weston is the owner of a marble and granite installation business called Sierra Soapstone, which according to its website serves the Sacramento area and Bay Area, with an office in Rocklin and another in Hayward.
Contacted by The Sacramento Bee, a representative for the business and Weston’s spouse each refused to comment.
The Honda Civic driver, Fernandez, told Fresno-area TV news station ABC 30 he had been celebrating New Year’s Eve and had pulled over onto the side of the road to rest.
“The guy chased us with his car and then made some racial... like asked if we were American, are we going to kill him and if we called the cops,” Fernandez told ABC 30. “We told him, ‘No, man! Can you just turn your car off because you’re scaring us. You just ran us off the road and into the bushes’.”
ABC 30 reports CHP officers said the man appeared to be high on meth, and told investigators he was driving like in the video game Grand Theft Auto.
Other victims told ABC 30 that they hid inside a Chevron gas station to get away from the suspect.
Investigators are still working to piece together the series of events.
©2020 the Merced Sun-Star (Merced, Calif.)