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Driver accused of hitting students near Santa Ana school charged with attempted murder

A Valencia man accused of striking and injuring  three girls on a sidewalk near Taft Elementary School in Santa Ana and who allegedly had incendiary devices in his vehicle was charged Wednesday with multiple counts of attempted murder.

Jason Carlos Guzman, 26, is facing nearly two dozen felony counts, including attempted premeditated murder, assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, child abuse and endangerment, possession of a destructive device and hit-and-run with injury, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday morning in Orange County Superior Court.

Guzman at around 8 a.m. on Monday morning approached the front gate of the elementary school and asked to use a bathroom, according to Santa Ana Unified School District officials. He acknowledged he was not a parent of any student at the school, district officials said. School employees quickly surrounded Guzman, district officials added, and followed him to the car he had parked in a campus lot.

According to prosecutors, Guzman crashed into a parking barrier as he drove out of the school lot. Guzman then accelerated into a group of elementary school students who were being walked to school by their grandparents, prosecutors said.

The vehicle struck a 6-year-old girl — who was a day away from her seventh birthday – a 9-year-old girl and an 11-year-old girl, prosecutors said. The children were thrown into the air, prosecutors added, but did not suffer serious injuries.

Guzman attempted to drive off, prosecutors said, but crashed into an SUV occupied by a woman and her 11-year-old daughter, who were not injured. Another mother tried to confront Guzman, prosecutors said, but ran away when he allegedly brandished a knife at her.

Santa Ana resident Isaias Vazquez heard the crash on Monday afternoon from inside his house.

When Vazquez went outside, he saw two children crying in pain as they were cradled in their parents’ arms, and another was lying motionless in the street.

“She eventually came to, and you could see she was hurting,” Vazquez said. “She was shouting when they sat her up and put her into the ambulance.

Vazquez said it appeared to him that the driver placed a knife he was holding into the car before walking into a nearby park and laying on the ground.

Investigators believe Guzman slashed himself with the knife after the collision happened, Santa Ana police Sgt. Maria Lopez said. The sergeant said she couldn’t confirm whether he had the knife on him at the time of his arrest.

Officers found several containers of flammable liquid in Guzman’s car, according to the Orange County DA’s Office.

Guzman remained hospitalized on Wednesday for the knife wound across his abdomen.

It did not appear that the school had been under any direct threat, Orange County Sheriff’s officials said Wednesday. School and law enforcement representatives say Guzman has no known ties to Taft Elementary or the victims. They did not say why he is believed to have been in Santa Ana on Monday.

“The actions of a single individual have resulted in undue trauma to the victims he hit as well as countless children, parents, and school staff,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement. “These children were innocently walking to school on the sidewalk with their grandparents and but for the grace of God, this incident did not result in a child being seriously injured or killed.”

District officials said crisis counselors will remain at the elementary school this week.

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