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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 8, 2019

Man Sentenced for Speeding Away with Border Patrol Agent Hanging out of Driver’s Window

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ryan Sausedo (619) 546-9689 and Katherine McGrath (619) 546-9054

SAN DIEGO – John Leland Combs was sentenced to 30 months in prison today for assaulting a U.S. Border Patrol agent by speeding away in a stolen car while the agent was leaning inside the driver’s window, and then leading Border Patrol agents on a high-speed chase on State Route 94, endangering everyone on the road that morning. 

Combs was convicted by a federal jury on November 6, 2018 of assault on a federal officer and high speed flight from a checkpoint.

According to evidence presented at trial, the assault occurred during the early morning hours of September 2, 2017. Agent Norberto M. Ribac was assigned to the Brown Field Border Patrol Station All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Unit patrolling in the area of Tecate, California. At approximately 5:40 a.m., Agent Ribac discovered northbound shoeprints in the sand approximately 300 yards west of the Tecate Port of Entry. Agent Ribac followed the footprints to Industrial Road, where he discovered Combs standing next to his car, a stolen Hyundai Genesis, and talking on his cell phone, mere yards north of the border fence in Tecate. 

Agent Ribac approached Combs and asked him if there was anything or anyone in the car. Combs said he was alone and voluntarily opened the trunk of the car for Agent Ribac to inspect. As Agent Ribac requested registration and records checks for the car, Combs got inside the car in an apparent attempt to leave the area. When Agent Ribac reached into the car through the driver’s side window to turn the engine off, Combs sped off. While Agent Ribac was attempting to free himself from the moving car, the car struck him on his right elbow and on the right side of his head, breaking his ATV helmet.

In an attempt to flee the State Route 94 Checkpoint, Combs hit speeds over 70 mph while swerving in and out of traffic on a winding two-lane highway. As Combs veered over the cone lane and into the eastbound lane of the checkpoint, video footage showed the agents successfully deploying spike strips. Combs eventually lost control of the car and swerved into a residential driveway. He attempted to flee on foot, but was quickly arrested.

“Agent Ribac put his life on the line to keep our community safe,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “I’m very glad it’s the defendant, and not the brave agent, who is paying the price for this audacious crime. We will use our legal arsenal to vigorously prosecute those who assault dedicated U.S. Border Patrol agents and endanger the public with dangerous escape attempts.”

“We are grateful to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their tenacity and professionalism in presenting a strong case in support of our agent,” said San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Rodney Scott. “The community in which we serve has spoken in favor of law and order, and every agent in this Sector appreciates the support as we work to provide a secure border.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ryan Sausedo and Katherine McGrath.

DEFENDANT                                                           Case No. 17cr3026-CAB

John Leland Combs                           

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Assault on a Federal Officer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111

Maximum Penalty: 12 months’ prison, $100,000 fine; 1 year supervised release

High Speed Flight from a Checkpoint, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 758

Maximum Penalty: 5 years’ prison, $250,000 fine; 3 years’ supervised release

AGENCIES

Department of Homeland Security, Border Patrol Intelligence

U.S. Border Patrol

 

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 
CAS19-0208-Combs
Updated February 8, 2019