Home NEWS Police/Fire Carload Of People Fleeing Orinda Police Crash On Moraga Way Early Friday...

Carload Of People Fleeing Orinda Police Crash On Moraga Way Early Friday Morning; Assault Rifle Recovered


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.

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  1. So, in summary, cop stops car for BS reason (violating “no right on red” at 1 am) and causes serious crash and likely life-changing injuries.

    Not sure I am a fan of this flavor of policing.

    • Hmmm… actually, if you consider the stop a causal agent for the driver to flee we can see the point, Chris, but then you have to wonder what the guy with the loaded assault rifle (still working on type) was doing with it – or intended to do with it – in little Lamorinda at 1:30 a.m.

  2. I remember being pulled over my MPD and OPD late at night in my younger party days. They wanted to make sure these people weren’t up to no good. It didn’t bother me then and it doesn’t bother me now.

  3. If someone is cruising through Orinda at 1:30 a.m. with a LOADED AK-47 ASSAULT RIFLE, I think it’s a good idea for the police to chase them.

    The police (and most of us) know that if someone evades the police, it has nothing to do with the traffic stop and everything to do with why they’re fleeing. Felony warrants, assault rifles, etc.

    As far as “life changing injuries,” they brought it on themselves. They made their bed, they’re lying in it.

    • Hi and good morning… couple of minor points for everyone: This story took some unfolding after our initial notifications went out early this morning. We found out about the gun this a.m. and believe the officer first set eyes on it when he pulled up on the crash scene and saw it on the ground. Don’t believe there was much of a chase here as much as there was an attempt by the driver in this case trying to get away from the officer who pulled them over and the officer(s) catching up after they crashed. We can surmise he was not anxious for the officer to see the gun, reaching speeds of 80 mph on Moraga Way and losing it where we said… Danielle’s question remains: What’s a carload of guys from over the hill doing with an assault rifle in Moraga at 1:30 a.m.?

  4. The ends don’t justify the means. A “no right on red” rule that applies 24/7 has no purpose other than to facilitate profiling.

  5. Just spitballing but it sounds to me like that officers instincts or whatever you want to call it probably saved a 17yo store clerk at Safeway or Seven Eleven from having to stare down the barrel of an assault rifle while he was being robbed.

  6. I am in favor of “profiling” in the sense of an articulable basis of suspicion that is rational and reasonable. Personally, I would allow some measure of officer discretion for people/vehicles that “don’t look like they belong,” despite disparate impact on poor and minorities (I think cops’ guts are better than courts in detecting who the bad guys are). I’m also OK if we, as a society, decide to be a bit less safe by saying cops *CANNOT* use apparent racial / socioeconomic status as a basis of suspicion (extra safety might not be a big enough benefit for perpetuating racism, for example). I’m *NOT* ok with having a million paternalistic rules that, in practical application, serve no purpose other that to receive the cops of the need to articulate a reasonable (and non-barred) basis for suspicion. That’s my point. I am not in favor of felons drving around with illegal guns after midnight. I am favor of freedom and transparency.

  7. @Chris: In this case the profile is “lawbreaker” which this guy clearly is based upon the article Mark posted above. Illegal turn. Fleeing a lawful police stop. Carrying proscribed weapon and/or ammo magazine. The posted article describes what harm he is capable of/has committed. I think arguing against a lawful police stop in this context is ludicrous.

  8. @Chris this quote is from the 2006 article Mark provided. You may want to give the officer a pass on this one.

    “Because some of the store clerks were so badly beaten, officers from three cities banded together to conduct a sting the night the group was arrested, police said.”

  9. That last name is too long. I’m going with Fiat was driving a Buick.

    And why should paroled felons be barred from owning firearms? If we can’t trust a parolee with a gun, why have they been paroled?

  10. Sounds like Mister Fiataugaluia has graduated from crow bars to assault rifles. Another example of successful prison rehabilitation.

  11. @david: The only (known) context is that a person broke a stupid law that serves no purpose other than being the basis for a discretionary stop (right on red in Orinda after 1am). To deny this is ludicrous.

  12. @Pamela: “The ends don’t justify the means” (Especially when you can’t know the “ends” ex ante).

  13. It is not ok to roll through 4 way stops and red traffic lights at 1 am when we don’t see other cars around. This is not just a matter of inconvenience for the late night driver or unreasonable enforcement of the law. The law has to be simple enough to be enforceable, and it has to be enforced uniformly, with some discretion, to be fair. It was just a traffic stop until the guy fled at dangerously high speed through Orinda.

  14. @David: Default vehicle code for red lights is that you may make a right AFTER COMING TO A COMPLETE STOP if (and only if) you yield to pedestrians and other traffic. He was not pulled over for violating that law (as your post suggests), cops said he violated a “no right on red” sign, which is a dumb law to apply 24/7. Perhaps a reasonable law to apply after 7am and before 9pm. Many other laws (even in Orinda) are time constrained to better fit the underlying public policy (the no left signs near OIS, for example). My broader point: our society is so clogged up with stupid, overly-broad and paternalistic laws that the government can apply substantial discretion in whether or not to mess with you without ever having to articulate a reasonable basis for doing so. I prefer laws that encode consensus morality (“malum in se”), not those that dictate it or over-ride it. But that’s just me….

  15. Well, we can agree that he failed to comply with the posted sign, and he failed to comply with the lawful OPD stop. I will leave it at that.

  16. @david & chris — I think it’s also safe to say that he failed to comply with the judges order not to reoffend, with the wardens order not to come back and probably with the orders laid down by his parole officer.

  17. I agree with Tony. I believe the officers instincts did keep someone from staring down the barrel of an assault rifle while being robbed. And probably a store clerk, since there isn’t too many businesses open at that hour.

    Why else would you be driving around the sleepy streets of Lamorinda at 1:30 a.m. (during the week) with a loaded rifle?

    He has a “violent robbery spree” past. The officers actions probably saved someone from an armed robbery, and perhaps someone’s life.

  18. @Chris: breaking traffic laws, not stopping for police and evading arrest, crashing the vehicle and carrying a loaded AK-47 in the car. Profiling. Absolute profiling. smh. Stop it.

  19. Was this the “No Turn on Red” at the bottom of the Highway 24 exit?

    Sadly the profiling was probably done against the Buick. I’ve met some good Buick’s driven by little old ladies but I’ve also seen some Buick’s on 24 inch rims asking to get pulled over.

    • Hi Mr./Ms. Prescott – interesting point. Moraga is equipped, don’t think Orinda has them for its officers, yet. That video would be interesting to see, you’re right.

  20. Slept right through this and if it hadn’t been for your flash alert I never would’ve known it it happened. I must be a really deep sleeper!

  21. Nicholson a big liberal no doubt. Cops did right thing completely. An assault rifle in his car and he flees? Up to no good for sure. Good work OPD!

    • Howdy, Steve… thanks for writing. While we’re a digital offering we’ve had the privilege of meeting several of our readers over the years we’ve been around, Chris among them. We’d tell you a story about our first meeting that might sway your observation as to his political leanings but that’s not our job and Chris is a grown man, more than capable of speaking for himself! As we’ve also been “labeled” lately, we’ll simply say that a person’s thoughts and sentiments aren’t always readily apparent – especially through the special veil that is the Internet – and that such labeling should be done with caution. Mr. Nicholson does not shy from expressing his opinions – here or anywhere else we’re sure – and we’re also sure that if he were to be engaged (civilly, of course) you’d find that out soon enough. All the best…

  22. @ Chris…does any moving violation fall under malum in se? I wouldn’t think so but I believe we need rules for safety through order nonetheless and unfortunately its not always efficient to do anything but apply them broadly.

    I was pulled over for the same violation (not the gun part!) at about the same time of night a number of years ago in Oakland. While I thought it was a petty move by the officer (petty officer?), I actually appreciated the fact they were keeping an eye on things. Its amazing how many bad guys get nabbed during one of these ordinary late night stops.

  23. Wow Chris. I wonder if you tone would change if this convicted felon was driving to your house. Clearly this guy should absolutely not be on the streets. As a resident of moraga I want to thank the OPD and commend them for getting this wildcard off the streets. Solid police work!! He should have stayed in San Leandro.

  24. While I admire Danielle’s optimism, I’d say it’s more likely a fellow criminal was spared from staring down the barrel of a gun. Fiat in a Buick was most likely on his way to rob one of his fellow criminal hood rats.

  25. I would also suggest this is a good lesson in why you should be in bed by 10 PM. Nothing good happens after midnight.

  26. @BG: No law without a rational connection to a legitimate public policy can be be a law proscribing “malum in se” conduct. Most moving violations at least have *some* rational basis. E.g., speeding and even signaling laws (E.g., VC 22017) only apply when failure to signal could conceivably affect another car’s movement. The “no right on red” law (as applied) is over broad and serves no legitimate purpose.

    @Steve, “isWrong,” and Peterson: Please consider whether we should judge general policing policies by outcomes in specific cases. Random warrantless searches in high crime areas would also locate many guns possessed by felons, drugs, etc. Why not have a rule to pull over and search all cars in Orinda worth less than $20K and carrying minorities? It would certainly reduce crime, right? Before saying “but, but, they broke a rule before being pulled over,” consider how many stupid traffic rules a typical soccer mom in a new Cayenne breaks in a day of running errands in and around town.

  27. Tom, my opinion was based on his prior convictions of armed robberies at 7 Elevens and Quick Stops (thanks for the link Mark) and agreeing with Tony, who I think is law enforcement.

    If he was looking for “fellow criminal hood rats,” I doubt he’d be cruising through Moraga and Orinda. If it wasn’t for his prior convictions, I’d guess he was on his way to commit burglary or armed robbery. His prior convictions point to armed robbery of convenience stores. If you don’t know a horse, look at it’s track record.

  28. @Tom…Midnight? Can we at least make it 12:30?

    A very good friend of mine gave me some great advice back in college: “never break more than one law at a time”. If only someone had passed that lesson on to these perps they would still be driving that Buick.

  29. While I’m glad this guy — pretty clearly up to no good — was caught, I do see Chris’s point above regarding 24-hour enforcement of the “no right on red” rule at the bottom of the Hwy 24 offramp. Many’s the late night I’ve been tempted to just go ahead and make that turn with no traffic around after giving the light a sporting chance to turn green.

    I can’t fault the officer for initiating a traffic stop — I would hope, however, that OPD would exercise a reasonable modicum of discretion in issuing citations for that particular violation at that particular hour of night. Stop, check ID, observe for signs of impairment, take a look at what’s in plain view in the passenger compartment, and then cite or send the driver on his way with a warning depending on driver behavior and the officer’s instincts.

  30. @Chris…Laws serve more than just their most obvious purpose. They are designed to create order among individuals, and expose those creating chaos. In this case, I would bet you there is a 99.9% chance that someone who blows through a “no right turn on red” sign at 1:30 in the morning is up to something the general population does not support. So our society asks the police to intervene to restore order. Kudos to OPD!

  31. It seems like they are coming in to town to give us a try every few months or so now. I am glad they only managed to hurt themselves during this foray.

  32. There are very few cars on the road at 1:30am on a Thursday night so you are going to seem suspicious and should expect to be “profiled”. I was pulled over on several occasions back in the 80’s coming home late at night in my not so late model economy car. Once the officer saw that my license had a Moraga address on it I was quickly sent on my way. I never once minded being “profiled” because it also meant that I was able to feel safe while living there.

  33. Just spitballin’ here, but it would seem the high-speed ejection!! of the heavily armed bad guy made for a safer arrest…and once again proves the Gumpism “stupid is as stupid does”.

  34. As in most cases, context matters and the devil is in the details. I too see Chris’ point that there is a danger in creating a quasi-police state by posting too many rules to reasonably follow and/or ones that make no sense so the cops can essentially pull over anyone at anytime for any reason, and always have a “valid” excuse (you violated the “no driving south on a day with a “t” in it law”).

    Thus, to really examine if we’re on our way towards or even already in such a quasi-police state requires a much broader look than this one law. It seems without opening that much larger discussion, the only valid reason I can think of for Chris to bring this up is he thinks this a good example of such a law, and either believes there are many others, and/or if this one is allowed to stand, it could lead to others.

    I agree that the major reasons for that sign apply MOSTLY during rush hour. But you should realize that this is not a traditional “4 way stop” as someone stated earlier – it’s more of a 5 way stop, and there are some vision concerns with turning right if the other cars on Brookwood are also allowed to turn right.

    So, assuming Brookwood cars are allowed to turn right on red, I can see the benefits of not making a timing exception on the offramp. When should it be? “no right on red before 8 PM? 9 PM? 11 PM?” How many cars does this apply to, if after say, 10PM? Not too many.

    So, I see both sides, and IMO it’s a close call at this point. The best “solution” at this point is if Orinda can make the turn signal after say 9 PM super responsive to approaching cars. Thus the stop would be super short, except in rare cases where there happens to be a line of cars approaching . I don’t know if it is or not, and I am sometimes frustrated when driving around Orinda in general at the slow traffic lights. I too have been tempted to turn right later at night at that offramp so I’m guessing the traffic signal isn’t too quick. But I’m sure it is possible to change it, likely at small cost.

    If that change was made, I wonder if Chris would still think this is a good example of government overreach.

  35. Putting time constraints on any sign is ILLOGICAL. That’s like saying my husband and I shouldn’t come to a stop in our Orinda neighborhood if we come home at 2 a.m. because we know all of our neighbors, and they’re sound asleep. Why stop when no one is on the road? Well, because the sign says so!

    If the sign says “no turn on red,” then wait a minute or two, and don’t turn on red. It’s no big deal, and people are blowing this way out of proportion.

  36. @TS: I’m indeed just using this to illustrate the larger trend– I don’t really care about this particular example. I do think that, in general, allowing motorists to use common sense will lead to more efficient choices without a think stack of counter-intuitive rules. I agree that a “smart(er)” light driving by sensors would be ideal. I assume the sensors are already there, so this is just a software change (red arrow would change to yellow “yield” light when no apparent oncoming traffic and when “straight ahead” light if green).

    @ Danielle: Please explain why it is illogical to limit the application of a rule to times of day (or, ideally, specific circumstances) where the rule is helpful to safety and/or efficiency? For your neighborhood stop sign example, a logical rule would be that you can (slowly) roll through stop signs when no other cars are (or appear to be) present but, if you choose to do so, you would be presumed liable for any collisions in the intersection.

  37. There is a no turn on red sign on Castro Valley Blvd in Castro Valley that hides itself at certain times and caused a very angry person behind me to honk at me until I realized that the sign had magically disappeared.

  38. @Chris. Whether this particular law is good or bad is irrelevant in this case. It is the law right now.
    Obey it or change it. BTW, this is a joke, right?—“allowing motorists to use common sense will lead to more efficient choices without a think stack of counter-intuitive rules.”

  39. Millions upon millions dislocated by climate change and war, but in Trump’s America, waiting at the light… is the plight…of the affluent white.
    The horror!! The horror!!

  40. It’s almost like some of you have already forgotten about the guys speeding away from the police, endangering anyone else on the road, flipping their car while attempting a turn into a neighborhood, the ensuing fire, and the recovered AK47…

    It’s a rule, attached to an oft busy intersection, put there after a traffic study, most likely because people didn’t exercise caution. Get over it.

  41. I would echo the sentiments of some here that the officer either through luck or skill saved some from a confrontation with an armed felon either that morning or at a later time. Eye-opening on several fronts particularly in light of the recent armed robbery and shooting in Orinda.

  42. Thank-you Police Departments for your great wor!. Cops do have a good intuition as to what is suspicious and what’s not. I trust that knack… and I get tired of the more liberal thinkers Among Us who always take offense everything. I think this car load of people were up to no good. I fully support the police and they’re dedicated protection of us good citizens.

  43. @News24-680: You can only imagine the number of peeps I’ve unfollowed/muted on twitter in the last 2 weeks. It’s like everybody’s lost their minds.

    Still following you of course 🙂

  44. @Greg: I agree, great work by the cops here. But do you favor a rule allowing cops to pull people over and search their cars on a hunch? I agree that such a rule would reduce crime. But at what cost?

    I’m not a liberal (in the modern sense), but I believe in liberty.

    Agree that cops did a good job here. I just wish they would say they pulled them over because they looked like thugs, in a crappy car and didn’t seem like they belonged here. I’m sure this is closer to the truth than what the cops wrote in their report. Perhaps I’m the only one bothered by that.

  45. If you haven’t seen this intersection, you should know that there is a very good reason that the “no right on red” sign is there. It is a five way intersection where one of the streets (Brookwood) is hard to see from the freeway exit. If you make a right on red, it is extremely dangerous to any cars coming from Brookwood road that you are unable to see. I have nearly been hit on multiple occasions because someone ignores or does not see the signs. As for the rule not being applied 24/7, even at 1:00 AM, it is difficult to tell whether there is a car coming from Brookwood and thus it is still dangerous to make the right. Besides, even for a normal red light, you will still get pulled over for running it, even if you can clearly see that there are no other cars. This is not a case of the police pulling someone over for some BS reason, if you break the law, the police will likely pull you over if they see it. This man caused his own fate when he fled from the police who were only going to give him a ticket. This is in no way an example of profiling.

  46. As others have said, you can’t have a right on red at this 5 way intersection. I’m not sure where that leaves Chris’s perception of why this incident began. Anyone will be pulled over for making a right on red through that dangerous intersectilon, regardless of what car they are in or what time of day it is.

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