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Pepper spray stops man who stabbed woman, stole BMW and ran down pedestrian, police say

Pepper spray stops man who stabbed woman, stole BMW and ran down pedestrian, police say
Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Chad Taylor speaks to reporters in Lake Forest. (Orange County Sheriff's Department)

A 25-year-old man was arrested Tuesday night in Lake Forest after authorities said he went on a violent, nine-minute rampage that included breaking into two homes, stabbing a woman and hitting a pedestrian with a stolen car before being pepper-sprayed by a bicyclist.

The situation began about 5 p.m. when the man got into a scuffle outside the Salvation Army store on Mercury Road. The man, identified by authorities as James Carlos Melendrez, ran to a nearby apartment complex and walked into an unlocked residence, startling a couple inside, said Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Chad Taylor.

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When the husband confronted Melendrez, he ran from the apartment and made his way across Rockfield Boulevard into a neighborhood of single-family homes. He hopped over a back fence and entered a home on Danby Drive by smashing a plate glass window in the backyard, Taylor said.

A woman and her teenage daughters were inside at the time. When Melendrez grabbed a knife from the kitchen, the mother ran from the home in an effort to lure him outside and away from her daughters, Taylor said.

Taylor said Melendrez chased her down Danby Drive onto Mullin Road and stabbed her several times after she tripped and fell to the ground. A group in a white BMW driving through the neighborhood witnessed the scene and got out of the car to try to help the woman.

The bystanders initially thought he was trying to assist the woman with some sort of medical emergency, but as they got closer, they realized he was stabbing her. Melendrez — still armed with the knife — began chasing them and then took their car, Taylor said.

Authorities said he was driving erratically and swerving in and out of oncoming traffic before he jumped a curb and struck a woman in her 50s who was walking on the sidewalk on Muirlands Boulevard.

Melendrez drove off after the crash and then collided with a nearby vehicle. After the crash, he ran to a trailer park on Muirlands Boulevard and tried unsuccessfully to break into a residence. He returned to the street, where he attempted to carjack several motorists before a bicyclist pepper-sprayed him, authorities said.

Melendrez was arrested at the scene and booked into Orange County Jail on suspicion of attempted murder, carjacking and felony hit-and-run. He is being held on $2 million bail. The two women were taken to a nearby hospital with critical injuries but were expected to survive, officials said.

Taylor said Melendrez did not have a relationship with any of the victims, and the crimes appeared to be random.

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