Daniel Garcia faces charges in an assault dangerous chase in which he allegedly threw pipe bombs at officers in Northern California. (Pipe bomb inset from San Francisco Police Officer’s Association; Crime scene screenshot from San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX-TV/YouTube)
A convicted car bomber released early from prison is now accused of punching a parishioner unconscious for money at a Catholic Mass, then leading police on a chase through San Francisco in which he threw exploding pipe bombs at pursuing officers before crashing and then asking how he scored on “Grand Theft Auto” once he was in custody.
Daniel Garcia, 42, was booked into the San Francisco County Jail on a slew of charges, including attempted murder, aggravated assault, assault on an officer, and transporting and igniting explosive devices with the intent to harm and with the intent to commit murder. He also faces charges for the chase, including resisting and delaying arrest and disobeying a red light.
It started on Sunday before 6 p.m. San Francisco police responded to a church in San Francisco’s North Beach on a report of an assault, police said in a news release.
Police said the suspect assaulted a parishioner and demanded money.
“The parishioner continued to pray and ignored him, at which point the suspect then violently assaulted this parishioner, punching them in the head,” Assistant Chief David Lazar said in a news conference. “We believe the parishioner went unconscious temporarily.”
Churchgoers helped the victim and called 911. The suspect left, got into a car and drove off, and officers initiated a pursuit.
During the chase, the suspect threw two “improvised explosive devices” out of the car window at the officers.
“The officers described not only seeing the flames of the device that hit the ground, but when the bomb detonated, they could feel the blowback of that in their vehicles,” Lazar said. “They believe the suspect intentionally tried to seriously injure or kill them.”
The chase ended when Garcia crashed his car in Martinez, more than 30 miles northeast of San Francisco, and was taken into custody. San Francisco County Supervisor Aaron Peskin said an officer briefing him on the incident told him that when Garcia was in custody, he asked “how many points he got in his Grand Theft Auto game,” referring to a violent and popular video game that allows players to break laws and cause havoc.
Neighbors who saw parts of the chase were aghast.
“It was a really loud report. You know, real short … just bam! And everyone came out of their apartments to look at what was going on. Definitely something unusual,” Jeff Idema, who saw part of it in San Francisco, told San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX-TV.
Garcia was convicted of placing a bomb under an SUV parked next to an apartment building in Fairfield, California, on May 27, 2011. The bomb detonated, causing a fireball and sending shrapnel into the car and the nearby apartment building where two young children were sleeping, the FBI said.
The SUV belonged to Garcia’s former tenant, who Garcia was angry at for taking a cable box and leaving behind trash when moving out, authorities said.
Garcia testified at trial that he had become “numb” about the dispute. During a June 16, 2011, search of Garcia’s house, law enforcement found and disabled a second bomb. Garcia was found and arrested two days later after a police stand-off.
He was sentenced in 2012 to serve 35 years in prison but was released early in 2019. The San Francisco Standard reported he was released early after successfully challenging his conviction on one charge that carried a 360-month sentence.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported he had a history of abuse and an obsession with fire. The paper quoted a woman who said he was her ex-boyfriend who subjected her to years of abuse fueled by his drug use and once threatened her with Molotov cocktails.
“I would have nightmares about the house being lit on fire,” the woman said, the Chronicle reported. “I’m not surprised (about the charges).”
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