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Tedious Day at Court Turns Exciting

Times Staff Writer

Victor Espinoza and his brother went to court in Pomona on Friday to keep a friend company through a tedious hearing.

He ended up pursuing--and catching--an escaped murder suspect.

The 27-year-old Valinda man was standing outside the Superior Court building with his brother, Alex, awaiting the hearing when he saw a man running toward him in jail-issue clothes. In hot pursuit were a prosecutor and a bailiff yelling, “Stop him!”

“Everybody was just standing there looking,” Espinoza said. “Me and my brother just looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s give these guys a hand.’ ”

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Wrestled Him to Ground

Victor Espinoza caught up to the escapee and wrestled him to the ground about 100 yards from the court building. If nothing else, his feat earned him the respect of Deputy Dist. Atty. Hyatt Seligman.

“He was really fantastic,” Seligman said. “He said, ‘Did I get a drug dealer?’ I said, ‘No, you got a murder suspect.’ The expression on his face at that point was priceless.”

The man Espinoza caught, Harold J. Beamer, 34, is charged with the rape, robbery and murder of a Pomona nurse.

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Espinoza admitted being nonplussed when he learned the escapee’s identity. “It was a shock,” he said. “I thought he was going to court on warrants or something.”

Beamer had been standing in court during a pretrial hearing Friday morning when he bolted through the swinging doors of the courtroom and out into the corridor. Seligman chased Beamer down four flights of stairs, into a courtyard and toward a parking lot.

The prosecutor said he was trailing the fleeing defendant by about 50 feet when Espinoza joined the chase.

“I would like to think I would have caught him,” Seligman said. “But I’m so out of shape, I don’t know.”

The bailiff handcuffed Beamer and led him back to court, where Judge Robert Martinez told Beamer that because of his escape attempt he would lose his jail privileges and would be shackled at all future court appearances. Seligman said he has not decided whether to charge Beamer with attempted escape.

Beamer faces charges of rape, robbery and first-degree murder with special circumstances in the August, 1987, slaying of Janet McAlindon, 40, outside the Pomona eye surgery clinic where she worked. If convicted, Beamer could be sentenced to death.


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