INDIO- A man accused of shooting a sheriff’s investigator in the face during a foot pursuit near Desert Hot Springs was ordered Tuesday to stand trial on felony charges, including attempted murder on a peace officer.
Following a two-hour preliminary hearing, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Thomas Douglass ruled there was enough evidence to order 22-year-old Javier Trani to face trial on all charges.
In addition to the attempted murder count, he faces charges of assault with a firearm on a peace officer, possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of ammunition, along with sentencing-enhancing allegations of causing great bodily injury.
Riverside County sheriff’s Investigator Rick Espinoza, who was working to identify gang members as part of “Operation Falling Sun” the day of the shooting, testified today that he saw Trani riding a bicycle against traffic around 9:45 p.m. last Aug. 29.
Espinoza said he tried to stop Trani on Avenida Ramada in an unincorporated part of Desert Hot Springs called “Brownstown,” but the man refused his order.
“He didn’t answer,” Espinoza said. “He didn’t say anything. He just looked at me and he began to peddle very fast.”
Espinoza said he followed Trani onto Camino Campesino, where the suspect ditched his bike and ran off into the desert.
The investigator said he got out of his car and began to run parallel with Trani to “cut him off,” ordering him to stop several times during that time.
“I am yelling, `Sheriff’s Department. Stop!” Espinoza said.
“At one point, as I am running through the desert, I just remember being stopped abruptly and my vision going and lights and everything slowed down,” he said.
“I remember falling and I could not tell what was happening. I just remember feeling very tired and closing my eyes. Seconds have passed. I am awakened by gunshots.”
Espinoza said he finally realized that he had been shot and that he could not breathe because his “airway was blocked.”
“I cleared my airway the best I could and stood up and walked in an area where I remembered my car was,” Espinoza said, adding that he heard more shots.
He said he knelt at the passenger door of his patrol car and tried to radio to dispatch for help. When he realized that he did not remember where he was, Espinoza said he walked to a nearby corner to see the street signs.
“My vision was very blurry,” Espinoza said, adding that he walked back to his patrol car and gave his location.
He said he was transported to Desert Regional Medical Center, where he was stabilized and underwent several surgeries. He was then taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he underwent reconstructive and other surgery.
He said his jaw was shattered from the impact of the bullet.
“The fragments from my teeth and the bullet tore the right side of my tongue,” Espinoza said.
He returned to week nearly two weeks ago, in time to take part in a massive sweep to culminate Operation Falling Sun, in which more than 120 gang members and felons were arrested.
Trani was arrested at a home on Avenida Ramada the next morning and a revolver was recovered nearby.
Trani, who is being held without bail, is scheduled to be back in court for arraignment on April 22.