CHULA VISTA, Calif. -
A 22-year-old gang member accused of trying to run down a Chula Vista police officer during an attempted traffic stop pleaded not guilty Friday to attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and other charges.
Gerardo Rodriguez Meza was ordered held on $800,000 bail. He also faces charges of resisting arrest and having a loaded firearm in a vehicle, Deputy District Attorney Carlos Varela said.
Rodriguez Meza faces 32 years and seven months in prison if convicted, according to the prosecutor.
South Bay Judge Katherine Bacal scheduled a readiness conference for Sept. 24 and a preliminary hearing for Sept. 27.
The defendant was arrested Wednesday at an apartment Wednesday in San Bernardino County, a week after the incident.
About 11:30 p.m. Sept. 5, patrolman Glenn Gossett saw a car with three or more people in it being driven erratically near Memorial Park in Chula Vista, Chula Vista Police Department officials said.
The driver refused to pull over and instead drove into an access road, where the car crashed into a wall, according to Chula Vista police Capt. Gary Wedge.
Believing the driver and passengers were going to abandon their vehicle and flee, Gossett got out of his patrol car in anticipation of a foot pursuit, Wedge said.
He said the suspect vehicle accelerated in reverse in a sweeping U-turn toward the officer and struck his patrol car, forcing the officer to back away.
The driver then revved the engine and accelerated directly toward Gossett, who responded by firing several shots from his service pistol, Wedge said.
The suspect's vehicle slammed into the patrol car again, after which the driver sped off, he said.
Gossett -- a 14-year veteran of the Chula Vista Police Department -- was not hurt. A short time later, police found the damaged suspect's vehicle about a block away with several bullet holes in it.
Police also detained a 15-year-old boy and two men at three separate locations near the scene of the incident. However, Rodriguez Meza of Chula Vista, who drove the vehicle, got away, police said.
The boy was arrested on suspicion of assault on a peace officer. The other two detainees were questioned and released.