LOS ANGELES — A driver who stole several cars, rammed police cruisers and hit other cars during an hourlong chase across Southern California was arrested after a chase that ended in smoke, flame and gunshots.
The wild chase across two counties began about 5 p.m. Wednesday with reports of a sedan speeding erratically in Anaheim in Orange County.
After a while, the driver fled that car and stole a parked van, which was captured on video smashing several times into a Fullerton police cruiser that blocked it until it managed to speed off.
The chase continued with the van sideswiping and rear-ending several cars as it sped and slid through street traffic before heading onto a freeway.
The driver later abandoned the van and ran inside a home in Whittier in Los Angeles County, stole keys to a pickup truck parked in the driveway, and took off as people in the home who had confronted him were almost struck, KNBC-TV reported.
Andres Benitez told the station that he had just returned from work.
“I was just talking to my mom and we were having a normal conversation when I saw the back door open and it’s not supposed to open,” he said. The suspect came into the kitchen.
Benitez said he grabbed a kitchen knife in order to defend his mother.
“I started redirecting him to the front door” but the man grabbed the car keys from the kitchen table. Benitez said he cornered the suspect, who had a pair of scissors, and threatened to stab him as his mother tried to hold him back.
The family and the man wound up outside, where he stole the truck and sped away.
The pickup eventually lost a front tire, but the driver continued to weave erratically through traffic in the Hacienda Heights area at high speed, hitting several cars, crossing center dividers and running red lights.
The truck ended up at a gas station after a Los Angeles County sheriff’s patrol car rammed the truck from behind.
By this point, more than a dozen patrol cars ringed the gas station but the truck still backed up and smashed into a patrol car, prompting authorities to fire several shots through the driver’s window.
Deputies with guns drawn surrounded the stopped truck as smoke erupted from it, and then flames that were quickly doused with a fire extinguisher.
At last, deputies using a special shield came up to the car, smashed the driver’s window, opened the door and pulled out the driver, who was walked to a patrol car. It was unclear whether he was injured.