Crime - Sacto 911

Stranded motorist jailed after allegedly attacking would-be rescuers in Nevada County

An Oregon man was arrested early Sunday in Nevada County after he allegedly attacked a passing motorist and California Department of Transportation employees who came to his aid when he was found passed out in his vehicle along Highway 20.

Aaron James Pagnozzi, 40, of Portland, had been driving a sedan on Highway 20 east of Washington Road when he drove partially onto the shoulder and stoppped, becoming stuck in the mud and partially blocking the right side of the roadway, according to a California Highway Patrol news release. Pagnozzi was apparently passed out behind the steering wheel with the engine running when he was discovered by a passing motorist. The motorist was unable to rouse Pagnozzi by knocking on the windows and began calling 911, the CHP reported.

Caltrans employees, who were patrolling the area during the stormy weather, also came upon the scene and began assisting by putting flares in the roadway to warn oncoming motorists.

The Caltrans employees and the motorist who had stopped were eventually able to awaken Pagnozzi, who got out of the vehicle but was extremely disoriented, according to the CHP. Pagnozzi allegedly became hostile to his would-be rescuers, and pulled a dagger-style knife. He allegedly grabbed a burning roadside flare and began attacking the people at the scene.

The motorist and Caltrans employees retreated to their vehicles and locked themselves inside. They finally left the area as Pagnozzi was stabbing at the vehicles with his knife and beating on the windows. As they drove away, Pagnozzi allegedly threw a burning flare into the rear of one of the vehicles.

CHP officers arrived within a few minutes and found Pagnozzi wandering in the middle of Highway 20. They took him into custody following a brief struggle.

Pagnozzi was booked into the county’s Wayne Brown Correctional Facility in Nevada City on suspicion of a number of felony and misdemeanor offenses, including assault with a deadly weapon, possession of an illegal knife and driving under the influence, according to the CHP.

Call The Bee’s Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.