By JOSH FRIEDMAN
A San Luis Obispo County jury convicted a man for driving a stolen motorcycle and evading an officer, charges that stemmed from two different traffic stops in which he attempted to flee police.
Early in the morning of Feb. 11, 2020, a Pismo Beach police officer pulled over Lario Garcia Tugas, 42, who he spotted speeding and weaving on Highway 101. Tugas was driving on a suspended license, and he provided a false birthday to the officer.
When it became clear his vehicle would be towed, Tugas said, “No, I’m gonna go,” and sped away from the traffic stop with his headlights off, according to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office.
A high-speed pursuit ensued, which moved from the highway to surface streets. Officers later caught Tugas and arrested him.
On July 12, 2021, a San Luis Obispo police officer stopped Tugas for riding a motorcycle without a helmet. When the officer ran the license plate, it did not match the motorcycle, a phenomenon known as “cold plating” a stolen vehicle, according to the DA’s office.
Tugas tried to drive away, but the officer pulled him off the motorcycle and ordered him to get on the ground. Tugas then pulled the officer’s hands off of him and fled by foot before being caught.
Earlier in 2021, the motorcycle Tugas was riding had been reported stolen. The motorcycle’s ignition had been damaged to allow the bike to start without a key, a process known as “hot wiring.”
For the first incident, jurors convicted Tugas of a felony charge of evading a peace officer with willful disregard for the safety of others. For the second incident, the jury convicted Tugas of a felony charge of driving a a stolen motorcycle with an enhancement for being out on bail, as well as a misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license.
Jurors deadlocked 10-2 in favor of guilt on an additional charge of resisting a peace officer by force.
“We thank the jury for their focused attention in hearing this case,” District Attorney Dan Dow said in a statement. “Individuals who engage in reckless conduct while driving and flee from peace officers endanger the safety of our law enforcement and the public generally. This verdict sends a message that our community will not tolerate this.”
Tugas’s sentencing is scheduled for July 11.