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Driver sped up and slammed into Oceanside officer, witnesses say

Hunter said the crash broke his right leg, and he now has a titanium pole in his leg. He has had at least two surgeries, including skin grafts from his right thigh. He remains in a lot of pain. (Fox 5 San Diego)

Michael Patton heard the impact — metal on metal — outside his driver’s side window as he rifled through his wallet to find his license.

He looked up and saw the Oceanside police officer, a 28-year department veteran, who had been standing at his driver’s window. But now, he was airborne.

“It was absolutely shocking and horrific,” Patton said Thursday before a packed Vista, Calif., courtroom.

His testimony came during the first few hours of a preliminary hearing for the suspected San Marcos gang member who authorities say intentionally rammed a Dodge Neon into the veteran motorcycle officer during an unrelated traffic stop June 19.

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Robert Flores, 26, has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder of a police officer, as well as assault on a police officer.

Police say Flores was driving along when he spotted the officer and decided to plow into him, solely because he was a policeman. The impact launched Brad Hunter, 49, perhaps 25 feet into the air before he landed in the middle of the street.

The Dodge raced away and witnesses ran to the officer, who was breathing but unresponsive.

Another witness, Toni Lessard, said she was a passenger in the car behind the Neon, and they were at a stoplight, headed south. When the light turned green and the Neon crossed through the intersection, she saw it veer off and speed toward Hunter.

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“It was slow, then he floored it, just floored it,” Lessard said.

Hunter, who was placed in a medically induced coma after the crash, testified Thursday that he does not remember the crash — or anything else from that morning. Last he could recall beforehand was preparing his uniform for work the night before.

Hunter said the crash broke his right leg. He has had multiple surgeries, has a titanium pole in his leg and remains in pain.

Flores was arrested within 30 minutes of the crash, authorities said, after he had ditched the car and he and a passenger ran away. When police found the car, the windshield was broken and Hunter’s police radio was impaled in it.

Flores remains jailed in lieu of more than $5 million bail.

teri.figueroa@sduniontribune.com

Figueroa writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune

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