Over the past few weeks, Californian police departments have received reports of drivers or passengers being shot by BBs through the windows of their vehicles while traveling on Californian freeways. Now footage from a Tesla vehicle’s camera system may have helped to crack that case by providing evidence that led to the arrest of Anaheim resident Jesse Leal Rodriguez.
Rodriguez now faces three counts of attempted murder and three counts of assault on a person causing great bodily injury after his arrest, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. If convicted on all charges, he faces a maximum possible sentence of 57 years in prison. He is currently being held on $750,000 bond.
Law enforcement personnel are still investigating whether he might have been involved in similar incidents of people being shot with BBs in the Riverside, Orange, and Los Angeles counties over the past weeks. The district attorney has not ruled out the possibility of more charges if witnesses in other incidents come forward.
When Rodriguez reportedly attacked the Tesla vehicle and its occupants near the intersection of Hamner Avenue and Hidden Valley Parkway in Norco, the camera system captured footage of a red Chevy Trailblazer that was traced back to him. He was stopped by police and arrested at the intersection of 91 Freeway and Tyler Street.
Rodriguez had previously been convicted on charges related to carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm in public and participating in criminal street gang activity. At the time, he was sentenced to 32 months in prison, though he was paroled early.
Rodriguez’ case is not the first time that Tesla cameras have been instrumental to cracking a case. One recent notable case involves Tesla cameras capturing footage of a man attempting to remove the vehicle’s tires in Springfield, Missouri. This led to charges related to a series of crimes that include burning down a Presbyterian church and vandalizing vehicles belonging to its members. The suspect in that case is being charged with hate crimes for his targeting of the primarily African-American church.
The cameras can be used as part of Tesla’s “Sentinel Mode,” which has captured vandals that specifically target Tesla vehicles in the past. Vandals have even turned themselves in after a Sentinel Mode video went viral. The phenomenon has been blamed on backlash against electric vehicles and especially Tesla.
Much of the dislike may be due to Elon Musk’s flamboyant style and the fact that he is a billionaire. People on social media often demand that he use his fortune to address their “pet” social cause like world hunger or animal rights. Elon Musk has previously said that he would like to use his fortune to help solve problems like the vehicle industry’s reliance on fossil fuels, which spews a lot of carbon into the atmosphere. Electric cars are only one side of his equation; solar powered technology like Tesla’s solar roofs and Powerwalls may also part of the solution. (Even so, some extreme environmentalists have allegedly targeted Tesla’s Gigafactory Berlin in an act of arson.)
Others may simply be jealous of people who can afford to own a brand-new Tesla. Prices start at $39,990 for a Model 3 Standard Range Plus.
It does not appear that Rodriguez specifically targeted Tesla vehicles, however. The motivation of his alleged attacks with a BB gun remains unknown.