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San Diego police: Man accused of punching officer while wearing Jesus costume arrested

Eric Van Vleet.jpg
Posted at 9:55 AM, Nov 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-06 21:01:09-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Police Wednesday announced the arrest of a man who is suspected of punching an officer during a downtown San Diego Halloween celebration while he was dressed in a Jesus Christ costume.

San Diego police said 24-year-old San Diego resident Eric Van Vleet was located in Cassia County, Idaho, and taken into custody by local authorities on Tuesday.

Van Vleet is expected to be extradited back to San Diego to face charges of battery against an officer with serious injury and use of force against an officer with injury.

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Police said surveillance video helped them identify Van Vleet as the suspect in the attack. Investigators determined the attack was “entirely unprovoked” based on witness statements.

According to police, a fight erupted during a Halloween-related event on 5th Avenue in the early morning hours of Nov. 1, prompting a response by SDPD officers.

As officers tried to break up the fracas, police allege Van Vleet “yelled some anti-police rhetoric and then ambushed one of the officers by striking him the face.” The assailant, dressed as Jesus, then fled the scene.

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The officer, a 3-year veteran of the force, suffered a wound to his face that required several stitches.