Man pleads not guilty to 27 felony charges in Escondido shooting spree


An ex-con accused of leading police on a chase through Escondido in a stolen car, firing at officers and bystanders and pumping bullets into a squad car and through a lawman’s ornamental shoulder piece, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to 27 felony charges.

Eric Anthony Pomatto, a 25-year-old transient, was ordered held without bail.

He faces 11 counts of attempted murder and nine counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer, among other charges, stemming from last Friday’s 15-minute rolling rampage, in which he also allegedly fired at a sheriff’s helicopter.

“This guy was on a mission,” police Lt. Craig Carter said over the weekend. “He was not firing blindly. He waited at corners to shoot at officers as they made the turn. Not one officer fired back. They showed a lot of restraint.”

No injuries were reported, though four police vehicles were damaged by gunfire.

About 6 p.m. Friday, an officer responding to a report of a suspicious vehicle on South Rose Street ran a computer check on the Honda Accord and discovered it had been stolen in Chula Vista, Carter said. Moments later, a man inside the car - later identified as Pomatto - opened fire on the cruiser, then drove off, the lieutenant said.

As officers chased the suspect along Midway Drive, near Bear Valley Parkway, he allegedly shot at them and fired through the stolen car’s open sunroof at a law enforcement helicopter aiding in the chase. The assailant then headed south on Bear Valley Parkway, firing a pistol and a shotgun at his pursuers.

At Craigmore Avenue, he allegedly shot through the windshield of a police dog handler’s cruiser. The bullet barely missed the officer, tearing through his ornamental shoulder piece and lodging in the back seat near his dog, according to Carter. Other bullets hit the front bumper and tires, disabling the patrol car.

The chase continued to the south as eight officers struggled to keep the Honda in sight while trying to stay out of the gunman’s firing range, Carter said.

On Boyle Avenue, the fleeing driver allegedly shot at an officer who was attempting to place tire-flattening spike strips on the roadway. The shot missed the intended victim but hit a passing car.

Carter said the driver continued to fire until he reached Westfield North County mall. There, he halted outside an On the Border restaurant, got out of the car and lay on the pavement.

“I don’t know why he stopped,” Carter said. “He obviously knew we were there.”

The sheriff’s helicopter crew landed in a parking lot at the shopping center to assess whether any gunfire had struck the aircraft. Carter said it apparently had not been hit.

The motive for the shooting spree was unclear, according to Carter.

Vista Judge Marshall Hockett scheduled a readiness conference for April 5 and a preliminary hearing for April 7.