Nicolas Garcia emerged from the darkness, seemingly out of nowhere, carrying a jagged, 3-foot-long weapon when he ran across the freeway toward a family in its car, disabled by a flat tire, officials said.
Before the family had time to absorb what was happening, Garcia was upon them about 2 a.m. Monday on the northbound side of the 215 Freeway in Menifee, the California Highway Patrol said.
FOR THE RECORD
4:07 p.m.: A previous version of this post misspelled Garcia's first name as Nicholas. It is Nicolas.
Garcia used his weapon -- a plastic freeway marker -- to shatter the driver's window then the rear windshield, where he allegedly reached in and grabbed the head of an 18-month-old boy strapped into his car seat, the CHP said.
When the boy didn't come loose, Garcia started stabbing him, said CHP Officer Mike Lassig.
The boy's father and two male passengers jumped out of the car to wrestle Garcia away while the boy's mother instinctively defended her son as she sat beside him in the backseat.
The baby was cut on his neck. His mother suffered cuts to her arms, hands and back, police said.
The men fought Garcia long enough to get back inside the car and speed off. Two of them suffered defensive wounds to their arms and hands, Lassig said.
None of the injuries were life-threatening.
In its hasty escape, the family left behind books, bags and other personal items they had removed from the car to reach the spare tire.
They made it to a gas a station at the next exit and reported the attack, Lassig said.
Garcia was still at the scene when officers arrived, Lassig said. He had his weapon and was resting on his knees over a fire, fueled by the items the family had left behind, according to the CHP.
"He's kneeling down like he's at a campfire," Lassig said.
Garcia, who was apparently under the influence of drugs, refused to put down his weapon at officers' orders and a struggle ensued, Lassig said. Garcia was shocked with a Taser, arrested and then taken to a hospital for treatment for drug use, police said.
Hours later, after he was released from the hospital, Garcia was booked on suspicion of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, willful injury to a child, resisting arrest and being under the influence of a controlled substance.
He was being held on $1 million bail, but Lassig said authorities will ask that it be increased.
"We don't want this guy out there," Lassig said.
Garcia is expected to be charged and arraigned Wednesday afternoon, Riverside County district attorney's officials said.
The mother and the boy were treated at a hospital, Lassig said. The two men injured in the attack were treated at the scene. The third man was not hurt.
Officers did not have any other information about Garcia. The investigation was ongoing.