Jesse Leal Rodriguez raised his right index finger and held it against the glass partition that separated him from a visitor at Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside.
“Not one person has reported that they saw me shoot,” Rodriguez, 34, said as he leaned forward. He repeated that statement, rapping his fingers on the glass for emphasis.
On Friday night, May 28, a day after Rodriguez was charged with attempted murder in connection with the shooting out of a window of a moving Tesla in Norco, he denied that he had anything to do that incident or any of the some 100 BB or pellet gun shootings that have traumatized Southern California freeway motorists the past two months.
Rodriguez, a construction worker who lives near Anaheim, was also charged with assault likely to cause great bodily injury, and a California Highway Patrol investigator wrote in a court document that he believed Rodriguez was responsible for at least six other shootings.
He is scheduled to enter pleas to three counts each of the two felony charges in a video arraignment on Tuesday in Superior Court in Riverside. Rodriguez is being held in lieu of $750,000 bail.
Rodriguez said he did not have an attorney. He said has been interrogated by a parade of investigators who he said are attempting to tie him to the shootings including, Rodriguez said, what the CHP described as a road-rage slaying of 6-year-old Aiden Leos on the 55 Freeway in Orange on May 21.
“They are trying to get me to confess to things I didn’t do. I didn’t do any of them,” Rodriguez said.
All of which made Rodriguez eager to speak in his own defense in an exclusive jailhouse interview with a Southern California News Group reporter. None of Rodriguez’s assertions could immediately be confirmed or refuted. The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office declined to directly address his statements.
“We filed the charges, supported by the evidence provided to us in the case, that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury,” said John Hall, a DA’s Office spokesman.
Rodriguez, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, made strong eye contact. An Angels baseball team logo, complete with a halo, is tattooed on the inside of the lower right arm of a man convicted of firearms violations in 2010 and 2012 and who admitted in 2012 to being part of a criminal Orange County street gang.
He said he is trying to put all that behind him.
Rodriguez said it’s no surprise that his maroon Chevrolet Trailblazer has been seen on the 91 Freeway in Corona, Riverside and Orange County, where much of the window-shattering gunfire has been reported. He works in construction throughout Southern California and said he was two weeks from completing training to obtain his contractor’s license at the time of his arrest.
He said he hopes to take over the plumbing business of his retiring uncle.
“Do you know how hard it is to shoot a moving car? I’m no marksman. I’m just a hard-working person trying to provide for my family,” Rodriguez said.
That family grew six weeks ago with the addition of a daughter. That means, Rodriguez said, “I don’t have time to do this crazy stuff” he is accused of.
Rodriguez said he has receipts that prove he was at a Temecula auto parts store just before 2 p.m. on May 25 when the driver of a Tesla with two passengers reported that a window had been shot out near the intersection of Hamner Avenue and Hidden Valley Parkway in Norco.
The Tesla’s camera system filmed a maroon Chevrolet with no license plates nearby. Rodriguez said investigators showed him the video and claimed that his face was visible. Friday, Rodriguez said it wasn’t.
Later that evening, several motorists reported that their windows had been shot out on the 91 Freeway near Tyler Street and described an SUV similar to Rodriguez’s, the CHP has said. Riverside police and the CHP found Rodriguez driving such a vehicle in the McDonald’s parking lot on Magnolia Avenue near the Galleria at Tyler and pulled him over.
Rodriguez, wearing an Angels cap, was led away in handcuffs.
As he sat in the back of the CHP cruiser, Rodriguez said, he heard two reports of cars’ windows being shot out on the police radio. An officer later told him that there was another such report one exit east at Van Buren Boulevard just as he was being pulled over.
“I can’t be in two places at the same time. I’m not a clone,” Rodriguez said.
The CHP said it pulled a BB gun and BBs out of his car. Rodriguez on Friday acknowledged he had those in his car, but only because he had taken them away from his 14-year-old stepson because he and friends were using it to shoot at “old ladies.”
Rodriguez said he didn’t know anything about the scores of reported shootings until he had been arrested despite an avalanche of publicity in newspapers and on television newscasts and social media. What he was aware of, he said, were the media’s stories about his arrest.
“People are painting a bad picture of me,” Rodriguez said.
Source: Orange County Register