PALMDALE – A 51-year-old driver and his 27-year-old passenger were arrested Friday morning after leading deputies on an erratic chase through east Palmdale that began in a church parking lot and ended at a gas station.
James Aaron Balladarez was taken into custody for evading a peace officer, possession of illegal weapons, ex-felon in possession of ammunition, and an outstanding forgery warrant.
Catherine Howard was arrested for resisting a police officer and two outstanding warrants for theft and driving under the influence.
The following is the press report from the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station:
Palmdale Deputies pursued two suspects throughout the eastern end of the city before they gave up near a gas station at 30th Street East and Palmdale Blvd.
The incident began when Palmdale Sheriff’s Station received a call form a concerned citizen indicating there was a suspicious grey GMC truck in the “Desert Winds Community Church” parking lot, located at 38117 13th Street East in the City of Palmdale.
As deputies approached the vehicle they observed 51-year-old James Balladarez seated in the driver seat of the vehicle and 27-year-old Catherine Howard seated in the rear extended portion of the truck.
As deputies began identifying why Balladarez was in the closed church’s parking lot, he became agitated and started digging for an item in the center console of the vehicle.
Balladarez slid his hand inside of a cloth bag, retrieved from the center console, and placed it to his head indicating he had a firearm in the bag and was threatening to harm himself.
Deputies immediately began ordering Balladarez and Howard out of the vehicle and to drop the firearm while assisting units responded to their location. Upon the arrival of assisting units Balladarez still refused to exit the vehicle and appeared upset and irrational in his behavior. Howard, who was still in the back of the car, appeared to be conversing with Balladarez, and deputies believed was asking him to release her from the vehicle.
Deputies continued to attempt to coax Balladarez, when he abruptly drove out of the parking lot, with Howard in the vehicle, and led Palmdale personnel on a slow speed pursuit through the eastern Palmdale area. During the 15 minute pursuit Balladarez stopped approximately four times and appeared to be surrendering to authorities, however again drove off each time.
Finally Balladarez drove the truck into the parking lot of a Chevron gas station near the corner of 30th Street East and Palmdale Blvd and stopped adjacent to one of the refueling pumps. Station personnel used less than lethal weapons to break the rear window of the truck, and deployed a CS Gas canister into the interior of the vehicle.
Balladarez exited the truck and surrendered without further incident.
Balladarez was transported and booked at the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station on charges of Evading a Peace Officer, Possession of Illegal Weapons, Ex-Felon in Possession of Ammunition, and an outstanding forgery warrant.
Through follow up investigation deputies determined that Howard was working with Balladarez to elude officers and she was subsequently charged with resisting a police officer and two outstanding warrants for theft and driving under the influence.
Deputies were not able to locate a firearm inside of the truck and believe he simulated the firearm using a pair of vise grips inside of the bag.