Suspected gang member charged for leading deputies on pursuit in East Palo Alto Friday


A suspected gang member pleaded not guilty Monday to crashing his car and abandoning a pregnant woman and a 13-year-old child while fleeing deputies in East Palo Alto on Friday, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also allege that Saul Moratapla, 19, had been drinking before he fled San Mateo County sheriff's deputies and was driving without a license.

Moratapla pleaded not guilty to evading police, child endangerment, two counts of false imprisonment, driving under the influence, resisting arrest and driving without a license, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office. He remains in custody on $100,000 bail.

Deputies first spotted Moratapla at 5:42 p.m. and recognized him as a wanted felon on probation for a burglary last year, sheriff's Detective Sal Zuno said. He was driving recklessly, going through a stop sign and swerving.

They pulled him over, but when the deputies got out of the car to approach him, Moratapla allegedly sped away.

The deputies got back in their car and chased him for about a mile, but called off the pursuit because of safety concerns, including Moratapla running a red light and going 40 mph in a 25 mph zone, prosecutors said.

Moratapla stopped himself, however. When trying to get onto U.S. Highway 101 near Donahoe Street in East Palo Alto, he crashed the car, got out and ran away. Deputies quickly caught up with him and arrested him.

When the deputies checked out the car he abandoned, they found three passengers, including a pregnant woman and a 13-year-old boy.

Moratapla showed signs of drinking and a breathalyzer test showed his blood-alcohol level to be 0.11 percent, prosecutors said.

He is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing on May 6.

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