“I just jumped,” Everardo Navarro said.
Navarro, along with two other drivers, rushed to the aid of the officer after he was pinned to the ground by a civilian, who was later identified as Jaime Balderas Paniagua.
Navarro and others rescued the CHP officer and prevented a dangerous situation from escalating into something much worse.
According to Navarro, he was not aware that the encounter was captured on a witness’s cellphone.
After watching the viral video for the first time days later, Navarro’s first thought was that the situation could have been much worse if he and the other good Samaritans had not intervened.
“I don’t think the officer was able to take control of that situation by himself, because the guy was very, very strong,” Navarro said.
According to the CHP, the incident began after officers responded to reports of a man shouting at motorists and attempting to remove a sign from a pole near the 5 Freeway.
Paniagua, 34, initially complied with the officers’ commands after they warned him not to enter the freeway or onramp. However, as one of the officers drove away on his motorcycle, Paniagua returned to the onramp and confronted an officer still at the scene.
Navarro witnessed the officer instructing Paniagua to leave the freeway but noticed that the argument persisted as he drove away. “Something about that made me want to see the arrest,” said Navarro, who turned his car around and drove back toward the scene.
In the video, Paniagua can be seen engaged in a heated exchange with the officer. The officer attempted to redirect Paniagua away from the onramp by touching his shoulder, but Paniagua slapped the officer’s hand away and a struggle ensued between the two. The officer managed to throw Paniagua to the ground, but both ended up falling, and Paniagua gained the upper hand.
As Navarro approached the scene, he noted the absence of any communication between the two men. Only the sounds of their struggle and passing cars filled the air. Navarro observed Paniagua pressing his forearm against the officer’s throat, restricting his movements.
Navarro’s punch to Paniagua’s ribs had little effect, leaving him with the impression that Paniagua had no intention of stopping.
Determined to help, Navarro attempted to remove Paniagua’s grip on the officer while two other drivers joined the effort. Ultimately, they succeeded in restraining Paniagua until the end of the recorded video. The officer, though winded, did not appear to have sustained any significant injuries. He then thanked Navarro and the others involved.
“The first few words that he said to us were just, ‘Thank you. Thank you, guys,’” Navarro said.
The officer has since resumed duty, while Paniagua faces multiple charges, including assault and battery on a peace officer and resisting arrest. He was subsequently booked in the Orange County jail.
Navarro, who hails from Jalisco, Mexico, and has resided in California for 24 years, reflected on his role in the events. He refused to label himself as a hero. Navarro did, however, make it a point to explain the incident to his children, telling them that “their father made the right decision, the correct decision.”