A Montrose Police Department officer had to act quickly Saturday evening, when a man suspected of opening fire in a Montrose neighborhood allegedly used a stolen U-Haul box truck in an attempt to run into another officer. But instead, police rammed the suspect, Rafael Arellano, to stop the alleged assault.
Arellano, 36, of Delta was arrested on accusations of first-degree assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving, aggravated motor vehicle theft, obstructing an officer, eluding and domestic violence.
Arellano was originally booked on suspicion of attempted first-degree assault, but because he allegedly “made several substantial steps” toward committing first-degree assault, he is now accused of that, Montrose Police Chief Blaine Hall said.
Formal charges will be filed by the District Attorney’s Office; these are due Feb. 27. Arellano’s bond was modified Monday to $10,000, cash or property pledge; he is also being held on two other cases, which between them carry a bail amount of $8,000, according to jail records.
Saturday evening, police received several phone calls that a man was firing a weapon in the area of Montrose Drive and that a woman was screaming.
Witnesses described the man and one identified him as Arellano, Hall said.
Before officers could arrive at the scene, the man and the woman left in an SUV, which headed north down Townsend Avenue at a high rate of speed other callers estimated to be between 60 and 80 mph.
Officers began responding north, found the vehicle, and conducted a high-risk stop at the edge of the city limits, but found only the female passenger inside. The man alleged to be Arellano had fled the scene.
He did not stay out of sight long. An officer watched him allegedly get into the U-Haul truck, start it up, and drive away.
Officers tried to stop him, but Arellano allegedly speeded through the UPS parking lot on North Townsend Avenue, making a wide turn and accelerating to a high speed.
“It was quite apparent he was attempting to ram one of our police officers,” Hall said.
That officer announced the situation over the police radio and the second officer on the scene decided to ram the U-Haul in an attempt to prevent his fellow officer from being struck.
After the patrol unit hit the U-Haul, Arellano allegedly fled on foot; Hall said neither he nor the officers was injured. The officers gave chase and found Arellano in a ditch, at which point, he surrendered.
Arellano was unarmed. Police the next day found a firearm near where he had been, Hall said.
“It was a very tense situation. It could have ended much worse,” Hall said.
“I think we’re lucky we didn’t have a citizen injured in this whole event, especially because of him allegedly firing rounds on Montrose Drive and, secondly, his driving actions.”
Hall said his officer’s actions in ramming the truck appear warranted.
“Our officers were justified in pursuing the subject and the officer that hit the box truck believed the other officer was in danger of being injured severely or killed, so he made the decision to try to stop the incident,” Hall said.
Police have not determined why shots were fired, but Hall said several witnesses did see who was shooting and investigators found evidence Arellano had a handgun, and as well, they found evidence corroborating witness statements.
“It was a harrowing case, for sure. It just goes to show how Montrose has changed and what we need to do to meet that change,” Hall said.
This story update's Saturday's breaking news, "Police investigate reports of shots fired."