By Marty Graham
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - A Los Angeles area father sought by police in the disappearance of his wife and four sons was arrested on Thursday after a tense standoff with police on a freeway overpass east of San Diego, and his sons were safely rescued, police said.
California Highway Patrol spokesman Kevin Pearlstein said the four boys aged between 6 and 11 are now in police custody. "The kids are doing good - they're playing and talking with us," Pearlstein said. "Physically they are fine, the mental part takes time."
Authorities in Montebello, a small city roughly 9 miles east of Los Angeles, had been searching for 43-year-old Daniel Perez, his 39-year-old wife Erica Perez, and their four young sons since they were reported missing on Tuesday, police said.
Police late on Wednesday afternoon discovered a woman's body in a Honda Accord belonging to the family. Officials have not released the name of the woman, pending positive identification from the local coroner.
Authorities are investigating the incident as a homicide, and considered Daniel Perez to be a person of interest.
Montebello police said the parents' unstable marriage had been troubled with a history of domestic violence.
In a tense, lengthy stand-off on Thursday morning, local and state police backed by armored vehicles surrounded Daniel Perez in a car on a freeway overpass in the San Diego area that police had closed to traffic.
Perez eventually emerged from the car with one of the boys, and police fired a non-lethal round to subdue him after they said he appeared ready to leap off the overpass, Pearlstein said.
"He tried to jump and that's when he was shot with the beanbag," Pearlstein said, adding Perez was not seriously injured.
It was not clear exactly how the other boys were freed, though one boy could be seen in news footage exiting the car moments before Perez was arrested.
Police located Perez and the children by tracking a stolen-vehicle signal emitted by the car. When police tried to stop the car, Perez fled and entered the freeway. El Cajon police and California Highway Patrol officers were able to surround the car on an overpass.
(Reporting by Marty Graham in San Diego, California; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Sandra Maer)