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Home / John Benoit Detention Center

OC man charged with hitting Indio cop with pickup truck, fleeing from police

A 32-year-old Orange County man accused of hitting an Indio police officer with his pickup and leading police on a brief chase that began near the Coachella Music & Arts Festival was charged Wednesday with assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer and other offenses.

Michael Anthony Berber of Fountain Valley was arrested and booked into the Benoit Detention Center in Indio on Saturday following the alleged attack in the area of Avenue 48 and Calle Conejo.

Along with the assault count, Berber is charged with kidnapping, felony evading and misdemeanor allegations of resisting arrest and fleeing from a law enforcement officer. He’s also charged separately in connection with a robbery last June.

Berber is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail and was slated to make his initial court appearance Wednesday afternoon at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.

According to the Indio Police Department, at about 10:45 p.m. Saturday, the defendant was driving a few blocks north of the Empire Polo Club, where the annual music festival is being held, when he allegedly ignored traffic controls, prompting a patrolman to try to detain him.

Berber disregarded the officer’s orders, and according to the criminal complaint, he allegedly grabbed the lawman, identified as Officer Viktor Custic, and briefly held him, resulting in the kidnapping charge.

In the ensuing struggle, the defendant allegedly struck Custic with his 2010 Chevrolet Silverado, according to court papers.

“The suspect fled westbound on Avenue 48 and then northbound on Jefferson Street, while being pursued by Indio police,” according to an agency statement. “Once the suspect merged onto westbound Interstate 10, the California Highway Patrol took control of the vehicle pursuit with the assistance of Indio PD.”

Berber stopped a short time later at the intersection of Monterrey Avenue and Varner Road in neighboring Thousand Palms, where he was taken into custody without further incident, according to police.

He was not injured.

Custic was treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries and sent home, where he’s expected to make a full recovery, according to authorities.

Berber has no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County. However, court records show there has been an active warrant for his arrest since December tied to a second-degree robbery, about which no details were available.

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