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Banning shooting suspect’s arraignment rescheduled

The suspect accused of killing two men and hospitalizing three people in Banning after going on an apparent random shooting and assault spree on Saturday is being arraigned on 10 counts; 9 of which are felonies.

James Paul Diaz, 34, was scheduled to appear at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, but a bailiff told News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 that the hearing has been postponed and will likely take place Thursday as it’s being moved back to Banning.

Diaz was not in court Wednesday because the Sheriff’s Department did not medically clear him to be transported. They would not say why he was not medically cleared.

According to a release from the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, the charges Diaz is facing include two counts of murder with special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and shooting from a vehicle. The special circumstance allegations make Diaz eligible for the death penalty.

“The only options based on what we have charged would be life without possibility of parole or the death penalty if the District Attorney decides to seek death,” Riverside County District Attorney’s Office spokesman John Hall said.

Diaz is also charged with two counts of attempted murder, three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of child endangerment, and one count of misdemeanor vandalism.

The victims killed in Saturday’s deadly shootings were identified as 34-year-old Benjamin Johnson and 66-year-old Paul Lesh.

According to evidence in the case, Diaz fired a shotgun at two separate vehicles within minutes of each other in two different locations in Banning, killing both men. A man who was a passenger in one of the vehicles was also shot and hospitalized.

Authorities said shots were also fired at a third unrelated vehicle occupied by a woman and her two grandchildren. The woman was injured and hospitalized but her grandchildren weren’t hurt.

Diaz then allegedly attacked and beat a man who was sitting inside a vehicle at an AMPM on 22nd Street in Banning. The District Attorney’s Office said the victim was hospitalized and later released.

The final incident happened near a church in Banning where a woman was approached by a man, later identified as Diaz, who smashed the windshield of her vehicle as her two young children sat inside. Fortunately, nobody was injured.

Diaz was arrested in Beaumont shortly after the vehicle vandalism. Authorities said he was booked into the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning but was later transported to the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside.

John Hall, with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, said Diaz is being held on no bail.

News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 will keep you updated as Diaz makes his way through court.

Initial Report:

Police said the first shooting happened when Diaz took aim at a man and a woman in a parked car on John Street. The man in the driver seat died. The woman was injured. A few minutes after that a couple of blocks away police said Diaz shot at a car with a woman driving in it, she was only injured. Just 10 minutes after that police said Diaz was seen on camera assaulting a man in the parking lot of an AMPM on 22nd street. Then police were called a few blocks from there to a person who died after crashing a pickup truck into a wall and police believe it was connected.

The Banning Police Department said Diaz is charged with two counts of murder in the first degree, one count of assault with a deadly weapon on a person, one count of shooting at a person from a vehicle, one count of shooting at an inhabited vehicle and one count of attempted murder.

The passenger victim from the 700 block of East John Street incident was released from the hospital Sunday.

Stay with News Channel 3 & CBS Local 2 as the case moves forward in court.

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