Emotions high as I-80 rock, barricade-tossing case back in court

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Emotions ran high outside a North Auburn courtroom Wednesday as injured victim Jose Palomera called on legal authorities to “send a message” to young people who throw debris off freeway overpasses at passing vehicles. With his wife weeping in the background and two children by his side, the Sacramento church pastor said it was a miracle he survived after a small boulder came crashing through his windshield. The rock hit him in the face as he passed under the Canyon Way overpass in Colfax early July 26 but he was able to pull to the side of the highway. And in a gesture that caught Palomera off guard and led to a courthouse parking-lot handshake, the father of one of Palomera’s alleged assailants offered his apologies. On a day that would have been their first day back at their Ben Taylor Road campus, three ex-Colfax High School football players appeared in adult court Wednesday on felony assault-with-a deadly-weapon and assault-causing-serious-bodily-injury charges. The three also face felony assault-with-a-deadly weapon charges in connection with incidents the same night involving a barricade and a rock tossed over the overpass that hit two other vehicles. Charged are Hunter Perez, 16, Samuel Edward Quinlan, 16, and Sean Edward Steele, 17. Perez is also known as Hunter Owens. With his jaw wired for at least six weeks after spending five days in hospital, Palomera said he continues to live in extreme pain – both emotionally and physically. He suffers nightmares daily, he said. “They could have killed me or somebody else,” Palomera said. “People need to know this is not a joke – this is a serious case. They need to send a message to young people this is not a game.” Addressing media questions outside the Placer County jail courtroom, Palomera had traveled to Auburn to attend a bail hearing involving the three. He’s pastor of Sacramento’s First Free Church. The hearing, requested by Quinlan’s attorney, didn’t go forward after Quinlan’s family was able to post $150,000 bail. Quinlan, in a shirt and tie, appeared for a short session before Superior Court Judge Larry Gaddis, who set Sept. 10 as the date for an early-status conference. Steele and Perez appeared in white T-shirts that youths housed in the Placer County Juvenile Correction Center wear. Quinlan left quickly through the parking lot after the hearing but Jeff Steele, father of Sean Steele, remained until after Palomera had spoken with the media and then approached him with his ex-wife, Amanda. As well as an apology and a handshake, Steele offered Palomera wishes for a quick recovery. “It’s been devastating to our family and to Mr. Palomera,” Steele said Steele said his son, Quinlan and Perez are very close friends as well as teammates. “Hopefully, these kids will have a hard learning lesson,” Steele said. “Unfortunately, they all made a really childish mistake.”