Hit-and-run suspect David Francis Cepeda Pangilinan
Hit-and-run suspect David Francis Cepeda Pangilinan. Photo courtesy El Cajon Police

A man who allegedly injured an El Cajon police officer, who was dragged about 200 yards down a roadway while clinging to an SUV, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to assault with a deadly weapon and identity theft charges.

David Pangilinan, 41, is accused of dragging Officer Nick Cirello down West Washington Avenue on the morning of Dec. 14, then fleeing the county. He was at large for nearly a month until being arrested at an undisclosed location in Los Angeles County by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart Division.

Cirello, who was also allegedly punched repeatedly by Pangilinan and 28-year-old co-defendant Keani Flores, suffered injuries that include major head trauma, a brain bleed and broken bones, according to Deputy District Attorney Mei Owen. The officer was hospitalized, but is now back home and is expected to fully recover from his injuries, according to the El Cajon Police Department.

Police were called at about 8 a.m. Dec. 14 on a report of an SUV blocking a resident’s driveway, and arrived to find Pangilinan and Flores sleeping inside the vehicle, Owen said.

Once roused awake by officers, Pangilinan gave them a fake ID, the prosecutor alleged. When a records check indicated Pangilinan was not the person whose ID he provided, he suddenly sped away, Owen said.

Cirello, “fearing for his life,” grabbed onto the SUV as it drove off, the prosecutor said. He alleged that Pangilinan and Flores both struck the officer about the head and body while he clung to the vehicle, which was traveling about 50 mph. Cirello then lost his grip and rolled several yards “while his head and body repeatedly struck the ground,” Owen said.

The SUV, a rented Volkswagen Atlas, was later found abandoned nearby, El Cajon police said.

Owen said Pangilinan has a criminal history that includes burglary, identity theft, fraud, forgery, conspiracy and drug-related offenses out of California, Arizona and Nevada.

Bail was set at $2 million for Pangilinan, and a bail hold was instituted, meaning that he must prove any sources of money used for bail comes from legitimate sources. Owen said she requested the hold due to the defendant’s history of identity theft.

Pangilinan’s co-defendant was arrested about a week later in the Madera County city of Oakhurst and is charged with felony assault. Flores previously pleaded not guilty and is currently out of custody.

Cirello started his law enforcement career as a police cadet in 2010 and was hired as a police officer in August 2018, according to the El Cajon Police Department.

–City News Service