Man sentenced for assaulting border agent

SAN DIEGO —  A man who fled from a U.S. Border Patrol agent in a stolen car, causing the lawman to get hit in the head and arm by the side of the vehicle, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison Friday.

John Leland Combs was convicted by a jury last year for assaulting USBP Agent Norberto Ribac the morning of Sept. 2, 2017.

About 5:40 a.m. that day, Ribac, part of an all-terrain-vehicle unit patrolling in the vicinity, discovered northbound shoe prints near the Tecate Port of Entry, court documents state. He followed them to Industrial Road, where he found Combs standing next to a car  — which turned out to be stolen — talking on a cellphone a few yards north of the border fence, court documents state.

When Ribac approached him and asked if there was anybody in the vehicle with him, Combs replied that he was alone and voluntarily opened the trunk so Ribac could inspect it. Moments later, the agent noticed that Combs was walking toward the driver’s-side door of the vehicle.

Combs then got into the Hyundai Genesis and started it, prompting Ribac to reach inside through the driver’s window to try to turn the engine off. At that point, Combs drove off with the agent’s upper body still inside the sedan, according to prosecutors.

As Ribac struggled to free himself, the body of the vehicle struck him on his right elbow and the right side of his head, breaking his ATV helmet.

Other agents arrested Combs following a road and foot pursuit that included at least five Border Patrol units giving chase and agents utilizing spike strips in an attempt to disable the stolen Hyundai.

Combs abandoned the vehicle after losing control of the car and swerving into a residential driveway, according to prosecutors.

Chief Patrol Agent Rodney S. Scott said Combs not only assaulted the agent, but also “placed multiple innocent drivers and other agents at serious risk by driving recklessly though east San Diego County.”

Jurors convicted Combs, who represented himself at trial, in November of felony assault on a federal officer and high speed flight from a checkpoint.

“This office will vigorously prosecute those who assault dedicated U.S. Border Patrol agents and endanger the public with dangerous escape maneuvers,” San Diego-area U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said. “We will not tolerate disrespect for law enforcement and cavalier disregard for community safety.”

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