A mother of four used a street taco to distract a gun-wielding man posing as a police officer in the San Gabriel Valley while she sought help, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement in which they praised the woman’s “taco-tactics.”
The family was heading home from a day at a water park Saturday evening when they stopped at a food truck in the 13400 block of Valley Boulevard in unincorporated Bassett. They were eating carne asada tacos in their minivan when a man on a bike approached them, authorities said.
The man threatened the woman, her husband and the four children and flashed a gun hidden in his waistband. He showed them a badge and told them he was an undercover police officer, the Sheriff’s Department said.
The woman, whose name has not been released, did not believe him and decided to try to distract him, authorities said.
She offered the man a taco and told him she was going to get napkins from the food truck. As she walked away, the man continued to show his gun and dig through her purse, authorities said.
The woman told people working in the truck and customers standing in line to not look at her van but to call 911. Customers and a man working in the truck called authorities, and deputies with the Sheriff’s Department’s Industry station found the man standing next to the family’s van.
When the man saw patrol cars, he tossed his handgun into the family’s vehicle and tried to get in, according to the Sheriff’s Department. Deputies recovered the gun and arrested him.
Authorities have identified the suspect as 38-year-old Juan Rodriguez. He was being held at the sheriff’s Industry Patrol Station in lieu of $201,000 bail, according to sheriff’s inmate records.
Rodriguez was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment and impersonating a peace officer, and he had multiple outstanding warrants, authorities said. Deputies are trying to determine if he was connected to other crimes reported in the area.
“We want to give a shout out to the brave mother whose momma bear instincts kicked in and she was able to deescalate the situation, plan a distraction and found a way to get deputies to her location immediately,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.