Crop duster helps arrest after mortar goes off in Kings County, deputies say

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A 35-year-old man was arrested with the help of a crop duster after a deputy spotted a mortar go off in Kings County, deputies say.

The Kings County Sheiff’s Offices says around 12:35 a.m., a deputy spotted a mortar going off near 18th and Idaho Avenues. As the Deputy approached the area, they said he observed a white Chrysler 300 pulling onto Idaho Avenue from a dirt road.

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

As the pursuit continued, deputies say the vehicle was blacked out and lost deputies on county dirt roads and orchards before Air 1 could get airborne. While deputies were setting up a perimeter, officials say 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 observed the suspect and relayed directions to pursuing deputies, who followed in his plane. As Air 1 arrived on the scene, it took over the pursuit as it approached Tulare County. Deputies say Munoz led deputies through orchards, country roads, and canal banks.

35-year-old Johnny Ray Munoz (image provided by the Kings County Sheriff’s Office)

The suspect’s vehicle stopped near Highway 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 vehicle, deputies say 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 on suspicion of multiple felony charges. The passenger was interviewed and released, according to officials.

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