A man described as a felon with a long criminal history has been charged after allegedly taking a Brea police officer’s gun and taser weapon, and battering the officer during an arrest attempt in La Habra this week, officials said.
Police are also searching for a bystander who intervened and helped the officer subdue the suspect.
The incident occurred about 1:35 p.m. Wednesday, when the officer noticed a blue Hyundai Elantra associated with a man who had an outstanding felony warrant, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
The officer tried to pull over the driver, who eventually pulled into a parking lot of a Home Depot along Harbor Boulevard in La Habra.
The driver, identified as 31-year-old Gilbert Antonio Villalba, of Los Angeles, got out and ran away. The officer chased Villalba, who “abruptly ran back to his vehicle, where his girlfriend had exited the vehicle and was standing next to it,” officials said.
The officer then grabbed Villalba to prevent him from getting back in his car, and the suspect allegedly kicked the officer, causing the officer to lose his balance.
Villalba allegedly grabbed the officer’s gun, “ripping the holster from its base plate, leaving the holster dangling upside down,” officials explained.
He then allegedly repeatedly grabbed the officer’s gun while trying to rip it from the holster.
Villalba is also accused of telling his girlfriend to grab the officer’s gun, though she refused, officials said.
The good Samaritan, who was wearing a cowboy hat, at one point intervened and helped the officer get Villalba into custody. The dramatic ordeal was caught on the officer’s body camera and other video. Authorities released the footage in hopes of finding the bystander to thank him.
“We don’t know who the guy is, he left before we could get his name,” Brea police Lt. Chris Harvey told KTLA. “We’d really like to talk to him and recognize him for what he did.”
Villalba has been charged with one felony count of attempted firearm removal from a peace officer, one felony count of battery on a peace officer and one felony count of resisting and deterring an executive officer. He faces a maximum sentence of six years and eight months in state prison if convicted on all charges.
Villalba has a prior strike conviction under California’s three-strikes law for a second-degree robbery, and a felony conviction for manufacturing an improvised gun, officials said.
“Here in Orange County, we do not tolerate violence of any kind and we support our police officers,” District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement. “If you attack a police officer, we are going to throw the book at you.”