By The Leader Staff
Suspect Johnny Munoz
Suspect Johnny Munoz

On Thursday, May 30, in the early morning hours, a Kings County Deputy observed a mortar go off near18th and Idaho Avenues. As the deputy approached the area, he observed a white Chrysler 300 pulling onto Idaho Avenue from a dirt road.

A mechanical violation was observed, but before the Deputy could initiate a traffic stop, the driver immediately pulled over. The license plate was run and returned as a stolen vehicle out of Lindsey.  The suspect and driver, later identified as suspect Johnny Ray Munoz, made a U-turn, and fled the area. A pursuit was initiated, and speeds during the pursuit reached over 120 mph.

Air 1 (Kings County Airplane) was requested. As the pursuit continued, the vehicle was blacked out and lost deputies on county dirt roads and orchards before Air 1 could get airborne.  As deputies were setting up a perimeter in the area where the vehicle was last seen, a farmer flying a crop duster aircraft called 911 and said he was following the suspect, and deputies could follow his plane. 

The crop duster kept an eye on the suspect and relayed directions to pursuing deputies, who followed his plane. As Air 1 arrived on the scene, it took over the pursuit as it approached Tulare County. For approximately another hour, the suspect, Munoz led deputies through orchards, country roads, and canal banks.

The suspect’s vehicle finally became disabled near SR 43 and W. Cecil Way in Tulare County, and Munoz fled on foot into an orchard. A passenger immediately surrendered and was detained. Air 1 was able to direct deputies and a K9 unit to the area where Munoz was hiding. Munoz ultimately surrendered after K9 announcements were made.

During a search of the stolen vehicle, ammunition and a mortar were located.  Munoz has an extensive criminal history and is a convicted felon.  He was booked into the Kings County Jail for multiple felony charges.  The passenger was interviewed and released.