NORWALK, Calif. - A former fugitive who opened fire on two sheriff's deputies with an AK-47 and badly wounded one of them more than a decade ago in an unincorporated area near Whittier pleaded guilty Tuesday, officials said.
Norwalk Superior Judge Peter Espinoza immediately sentenced Emigdio Preciado Jr. to 25 years in prison as part of the plea agreement, Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office spokesman Matt Krasnowski said.
During what was scheduled to be a preliminary hearing leading up to a trial, Preciado pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon on peace officers, as well as the special allegation of using a firearm in a felony, Krasnowski said.
"I think, for most of us, we're just very happy that it's finally come to a conclusion," said Lt. Jeff Scroggin of the sheriff's Norwalk Station, where the involved deputies - Michael Schaap and David Timberlake - were assigned at the time of the shooting.
Prosecutor Frank Tavelman said he was also pleased the case finally had come to an end.
"It's nice after 11 years to see finally have a conclusion, and (Preciado) brought to justice," he said.
Tavelman added that he didn't learn of the potential plea deal until late Monday, and had been preparing for further proceedings.
Schaap and Timberlake were consulted before the deal was offered, and both found it acceptable, the prosecutor said.
The plea will make further legal proceedings, and ultimately a trial, unnecessary.
"To have this day go very quickly, in the long term, I think is good," Scroggin said. "Hopefully, this puts a bad day behind us for once and for all."
Schaap and Timberlake could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The two deputies pulled over a van containing Preciado and three other men at Gunn Avenue and Mulberry Drive in the early morning hours of Sept. 25, 2000.
Preciado emerged from the van with an AK-47 assault rifle and unleashed a barrage of about 30 bullets at the deputies.
Schaap was struck in the head by a bullet and suffered brain damage. Timberlake was not hurt.
After much recovery, which included re-learning to walk, Schaap returned to work less than two years after the shooting.
Preciado fled to Mexico after the shooting, where he remained a fugitive until he was arrested in 2009 by the FBI and Mexican police, then extradited back to the U.S. to face charges last year.
A video surfaced showing Preciado dancing at a party only months after the near-fatal attack, and he was added to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list of fugitives in 2007.
"It's an example of how when law enforcement agencies work together, they can bring people to justice," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said. "A violent criminal has been taken off the streets."
The three other men inside the van at the time of the shooting have since been sentenced for their roles in the crime.
Omar Jimenez is serving a 15-year prison sentence for attempted murder, Carlos Gutierrez received 19 years in prison for attempted murder and Jose Guardado is serving 19 years in prison for conspiracy.
Preciado is required to serve at least 85 percent of his 25-year sentence, or more than 21 years, authorities said.
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