ESCONDIDO — A 26-year-old man charged with firing on police officers as he led them on a pursuit through North County in March will have to stand trial on charges relating to the altercation, a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled May 26.
Following a daylong preliminary hearing, Judge Harry Elias found enough evidence to bind Eric Anthony Pomatto over on 27 criminal counts relating to the six-mile chase that originated on Rose Street in Escondido outside Pomatto’s ex-girlfriend’s father’s house around 6:15 p.m. March 19. The charges include 11 counts of attempted murder relating to the nine Escondido police officers and two police cadets involved in the pursuit.
The chase began when an Escondido police officer was dispatched to investigate a suspicious vehicle parked in the 500 block of Rose Street. As the officer walked up to the tan Honda Accord, the vehicle sped away and the pursuit began, according to testimony.
Authorities said the Honda had been stolen two days earlier from a San Diego police detective who had stopped for coffee in Chula Vista. At the time of the car theft, the detective’s semi-automatic handgun and shotgun were in the vehicle.
As Escondido police officers began pursuing Pomatto through the city, he started firing at them. “My windshield explodes, then there was a lot of dust in my car and I look down to see a whole in my windshield,” Officer Ryan Banks testified.
Banks said that bullet grazed the right shoulder of his uniform, while another shot blew out one of his marked patrol car’s tires.
During the chase, which ended without incident in the parking lot of On the Border restaurant at the Westfield North County Fair mall, police testified Pomatto fired out his window at the pursuing patrol vehicles and through the sunroof at a police helicopter that was following the chase from the air.
Sgt. Don Shumate testified he believed Pomatto was “laying in wait” several times during the chase because he said the defendant slowed to a stop around corners as if to open fire on the officers as the came around the bend.
Shumate said he was just waiting for the bullets to come through his windshield.
Police never returned fire at Pomatto, according to witness testimony.
Pomatto faces up to 158 years in prison if convicted of all the charges. His next scheduled court appearance is this month.
Last November, Pomatto was convicted in Butte County of two felony counts of making criminal threats.