The Coast News Group

Deputies fire on suspect accused of stealing van

VALLEY CENTER — Sheriff’s officials have released the names of two veteran deputies who opened fire on a suspect who allegedly stole a minivan, fled from law enforcement, attempted to run down several deputies and then crashed into two sheriff’s patrol vehicles over the weekend in Valley Center.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies involved in the shooting — which did not injure the suspect but wounded a dog in his vehicle — were Aaron Boer, a 10-year veteran of the department, and 16-year department veteran Gordon McCarthy, said sheriff’s homicide Sgt. Steve Bodine.

The suspect, 22-year-old Kevin Ernesto Meza, was arrested following the chase and crash, authorities said.

The homeless resident of North County is being held in lieu of $370,000 bail in the Vista Detention Center on suspicion of eight felony charges including three counts of assault with a deadly weapon  on a peace officer.

The incident began about 3 a.m. Nov. 26 when deputies at the Valley Center substation received a radio call to be on the lookout for a stolen Honda Odyssey van, according to Sheriff’s Lt. Rich Williams. The van was later seen near Valley View Casino, and with the help of San Pasqual Tribal Police, deputies attempted to stop it.

Meza reportedly stopped for a few seconds, then drove off at a high speed, narrowly missing a patrol vehicle, Williams said. Deputies pursued the van northbound on North Lake Wohlford Road onto Thundernut Lane, where the driver again stopped briefly.

When deputies approached the van on foot, Meza attempted to drive into one of the deputies, causing the deputies to open fire, Williams said. The driver again sped off to the dead end of Thundernut Lane where he made a U-turn and sped toward the deputies, who again opened fire.

Bodine did not specify how many shots were fired or if both Boer and McCarthy opened fire on both occasions.

After being shot at the second time, Meza’s stolen van struck two patrol cars and became disabled, Williams said.

Meza was not struck by gunfire, but was taken to a hospital for injuries sustained in the crash.

Deputies discovered a dog inside the vehicle that had apparently been struck by gunfire, Williams said. The dog, believed to belong to Meza, was taken to a local veterinary hospital for treatment and later released.

One sheriff’s deputy was treated for whiplash and released from a hospital, Williams said. The sheriff’s homicide detail took over the investigation as is customary in deputy-involved shootings.