The man who tied up Thanksgiving Day traffic on Interstate 15 is expected to be released from jail Wednesday night. Victor Diaz was supposed to be arraigned earlier in the day, but so far, no charges have been filed against him. NBC 7’s Megan Tevrizian has reaction from Diaz’s mom.
The San Diego District Attorney’s office decided not to file charges Wednesday against a man who made a prank phone call to his sister saying there was a bomb in her car, resulting in a massive law enforcement response and the shutdown of Interstate 15 on Thanksgiving.
Originally, Victor faced felony charges for making a false bomb threat. He was supposed to be arraigned on Wednesday, but the case took another turn when the DA’s office ultimately chose not to file charges.
The case will now be passed onto the San Diego City Attorney’s office for review. At this point, the prankster’s case can be reduced to misdemeanor charges for making a criminal threat. He may also still face hefty fines.
Officials said Victor will likely be released from jail Wednesday night, and will receive a letter in the mail notifying him of the next steps in his case.
Victor's attorney, Brian Watkins, said that in this day and age, it's no surprise the prank escalated quickly and yielded a large response from law enforcement.
“Nowadays, the government has to take threats of mass violence seriously, so that response is not unusual. [Law enforcement] needed to do that response and have everybody out there in full-force because we don’t know what’s a hoax and what’s not,” said Watkins.
The Thanksgiving prank impacted hundreds of motorists in San Diego and genuinely frightened Victor’s sister, Deanna.
In an exclusive interview with NBC 7 San Diego on Friday, Deanna said her brother called her twice from an unknown number as she was driving on I-15, heading to her family’s Thanksgiving gathering in Escondido.
Disguising his voice, Victor left a chilling message saying there was a bomb in Deanna’s white car, and that the vehicle would soon explode.
Deanna said she didn’t recognize Victor’s voice at all and truly feared for her life and the safety of other motorists traveling on the I-15 that day. She pulled over to the center divide on the freeway and called authorities.
From there, dozens of law enforcement officials responded to the scene, including bomb squad investigators. The I-15 was shut down in both directions for approximately three hours as officials questioned Deanna and checked out her vehicle.
As this took place, Thanksgiving travelers were stranded on the freeway in bumper-to-bumper traffic, hoping to make it to their own holiday gatherings.
In the end, officials determined Victor had been the suspicious caller and there really was no bomb in Deanna’s car. Victor was called to the scene for questioning and arrested for the bomb hoax.
Deanna told NBC 7 her brother is a good man who made a foolish mistake. Both Deanna and law enforcement officials said Victor was apologetic for the stunt from the start.
Deanna also said she felt terrible about the incident and the massive traffic jam that impacted so many people but said she was truly scared and thought someone was trying to kill her.
NBC 7 spoke with the siblings' mother, Lucia Diaz, Wednesday following the decision from the DA's office. Lucia said her son never thought his joke would get so out of hand.
"He didn't imagine what a big problem he did. It was just a joke," said Lucia.
Lucia said all four of her kids have always played practical jokes on one another growing up, but never to this extent.
She said she's very upset with her son and feels sorry her daughter had to go through this frightening ordeal. The mother maintains that her son is a good man, but made a bad mistake.
"He's not a bad person; he's a really nice person," added Lucia. "He's embarrassed and sorry for the people. I know him -- he has a good heart."