Lamorinda police fell in behind a Buick sedan which fled from a traffic stop in Orinda toward Moraga early Friday morning, the car reaching speeds of 80 mph on Moraga Way before crashing with three people aboard – ejecting one of them.
Orinda Police Chief Mark Nagel said one of his officers observed the Buick making a right hand turn against a sign that prohibits the turn at a red light at around 1:30 a.m. The officer made a traffic stop and was approaching the car when Nagel said the driver decided to accelerate in an attempt to “flee the stop.”
The initiating officer returned to his car, Nagel said, and was attempting to catch up to the fleeing car when its driver attempted to make a turn at Ivy Drive and lost control of the car. His officer rounded the corner to find the vehicle had crashed and one of the occupants was ejected and lying in the street, Nagel said, a loaded AK-47 assault rifle with an extended magazine on the ground next to him.
Officers arrested John Fiataugaluia, 29, of San Leandro, with charges of felony evading, felony possession of assault rifle and high capacity magazine pending against him. Investigators believe Fiataugaluia was driving the Buick when it crashed.
Witnesses, several of whom were unsure exactly what they were seeing at that hour, said the suspect car left a wide trail of debris at the crash scene and was starting to catch fire when police extricated the last of two passengers still inside.
Fiataugaluia was taken to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek for treatment, according to police. His two passengers were also examined and treated.
Court records show that Fiataugaluia, then living in Fremont, pleaded no contest to two counts of second-degree robbery in 2006 and was sentenced to state prison for five years after admitting he used a metal bar during one of several armed thefts at 7 Eleven and Quik Stop markets in the East Bay.