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Post-crash chaos led to escape

A Norteño gang member and sex offender suspected in a drive-by shooting Tuesday eluded police by giving a false name while being treated at a Grants Pass hospital.

Gabriel Perez, 20, of Medford, was injured in a car crash that occurred during a high-speed police pursuit after the shooting at Beall Lane and Circle Wood Drive. He fled the crash scene on Old Stage Road, hitched a ride from a neighbor and made his way to Three Rivers Community Hospital, where he admitted himself.

Perez, who was convicted of second-degree rape in Jackson County in 2008, was still at large late Thursday, according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.

While at Three Rivers, Perez gave conflicting stories about his injuries, prompting hospital personnel to call police.

The Grants Pass officer who questioned him was unaware Perez was wanted in connection with a shooting.

"The departments usually communicate with each other," said Jackson County sheriff's spokeswoman Andrea Carlson.

Carlson said the chaotic scene following the shooting and the car crash might be responsible for the communication breakdown between local officers and Grants Pass.

Police believe four men in a Chevy Impala shot at a Gold Hill man and his girlfriend in a Isuzu Rodeo at about 4 a.m. Tuesday at the Central Point intersection.

Eric Dorey, 22, was hit in the jaw and airlifted to a Portland hospital, where he was listed in serious condition Tuesday. Jennifer Knutson, 19, of Central Point suffered minor injuries, according to the sheriff's department.

Police responding to the scene spotted the Impala running a red light at Beall and Highway 99 and gave chase. The chase ended when the Impala crashed in the 8200 block of Old Stage Road, killing one passenger, Gustavo Santiago, 16, of Central Point.

Carlson said investigators in Jackson County were working quickly to determine exactly what happened and at the time were not aware that Perez had been a passenger in the car.

"If we knew then what we know now, we would have been aware of Perez and would have been looking for him immediately after the crash," Carlson said. "We found out about him later."

Carlson said immediately after the crash, Perez ran to a neighboring house, where he was allowed to call a family member. The neighbor took Perez to Figaro's Pizza in Gold Hill, where he was picked up by the relative and taken to Three Rivers.

Perez lied about how he had been injured, offering several conflicting stories. Hospital officials contacted the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety. An officer tried to question Perez, who gave a fake name and changed his story several times. The officer photographed Perez's injuries but was not able to arrest or detain Perez after he was medically cleared.

"The officers in Grants Pass had no reason to detain Perez at the time," Carlson said. "They did not know he was wanted in the shooting."

Perez left the hospital and was last seen in the Medford area, Carlson said.

Two 19-year-olds from Traver, Calif., Miguel A. Carbajal and Francisco J. Campos, were also in the car and were taken to local hospitals. Carbajal has since been lodged in the Jackson County Jail on attempted murder, assault, manslaughter and other charges.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.

A memorial for Gustavo Ray Santiago has been placed along Old Stage Road near where he died in a car crash following a drive-by shooting in Central Point. Bob Pennell / Mail Tribune - Bob Pennell