Visalia Man Convicted in CHP Shootout

November 19, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
A 21-year old South Valley man was sentenced to two life sentences today for trying to kill two California Highway Patrol officers. Last December, officers ensued in a shootout with Eric Armendariz on Highway 198. It ended with the suspect and a friend crashing at Second and Irwin Streets in downtown Hanford.

Eric Armendariz sat motionless as a judge told him he would spend the next 89 years in prison for two attempted murder charges and a special allegation for firing an illegal firearm. Last December, the 21-year old and a friend car-jacked a couple's car in Visalia then headed to Hanford. California Highway Patorl officers Maurice Teliha and Henry Vangemert pulled the two over for driving at a speed of 106 miles per hour. Armendariz, who was in the passenger seat, got out of the car and started shooting at officers.

Prosecutor Keith Fagundes says "I think this guy deserves absolutely no leniency these CHP officers as well as any law enforcement in Kings County don't get paid to get shot at and certainly not appreciated for what they do in risking their lives every day."

These pictures show the bullet holes left in the patrol car. The shooting is still too emotional for some Highway Patrol officers in Hanford to talk about.

CHP Officer Jerry Pierce says "We're so grateful for all the help that we got."

Armendariz testified that he didn't mean to shoot at the CHP officers and was under the influence of drugs at the time of the crime. Armendariz's attorney, who was seen comforting her client's mother after the sentencing, has already filed an appeal refuting the attempted murder conviction.

Michelle Winspur, Armendariz's attorney, says "He went to the hospital basically on a routine check before being placed in custody and they did not draw blood. It's our position that if they had drawn blood we would have been able to prove that he was under the influence."

Armendariz's mother says her son has battled an addiction to methamphetamine since he was 14. She says he understands the severity of the crimes and that their whole family has been devastated by this incident.

Prosecutors insist Armendariz was not on drugs and fully aware of the crimes he committed. The two CHP officers Armendariz tried to kill were too upset to come to court but say they are happy with the sentencing.

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