SR-76 reopens after fleeing suspect crashes into shuttle bus

PALA, Calif. -- A pursuit involving sheriff's deputies ended when a fleeing suspect crashed into a bus on state Route 76 near Pala Casino, authorities said.

The pursuit began around 4:15 p.m. when deputies tried to pull over a driver in a white 1999 Dodge Durango who had an outstanding felony warrant near Pala Mission Road. The driver sped off and about two minutes later crashed into a shuttle bus traveling in the opposite direction.

The shuttle is a "Lift" bus operated by the North County Transit District to transport people with disabilities. The driver and a passenger -- the only occupants of the bus -- were taken to Palomar Hospital to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

The suspect, later identified as 23-year-old Cesar Lopez, was extracted from the mangled SUV.

In the suspect's SUV, authorities found a handgun, loaded pistol magazines, suspected methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. They also found checks, identification cards, a passport and other suspected stolen property.

Authorities discovered Lopez was on Post Release Community Supervision for felonious theft, had two felony warrants and one misdemeanor warrant for his arrest. Deputies arrested him for multiple felony charges related to the pursuit and weapon possession.

Lopez was taken to Palomar Hospital to be treated for his injuries and will be booked into the Vista Detention Facility.

All lanes of state Route 76 at Pala Mission Road were closed in both directions for several hours but reopened at 10:30 p.m.

California Highway Patrol is investigating the collision.