Driver Surrenders After Leading Pursuit In Stolen LAFD Vehicle

The LAFD SUV was stolen in downtown LA, and spotted later in Palos Verdes. Amy Johnson and Desmond Shaw report.

Video Transcript

- And we are following breaking news. A police pursuit of an LAFD vehicle going on right now. This is a stolen vehicle. This is not a fire truck but an SUV that was taken. We are told that no one was hurt. This was not a vehicle that was taken by force. This vehicle does have LoJack on it, and they were able to track the vehicle. And now as you see, cruisers are right behind it. This is not going very fast.

Desmond Shaw is up above this pursuit and has a little more. Desmond, where exactly is this?

DESMOND SHAW: Well, Amy, we are in the heart of San Pedro right now as we are northbound on Pacific Avenue. You can see-- whoa, just kind of dodged around-- there were spike strips right there. I think I just heard him say good deployment, so I think they got at least one of the tires. We've been hearing them trying to talk about coordinating some spike strips for quite some time, and that's because this has not been a very high-speed pursuit. There was talk of a pit maneuver as well, but they wanted to try the spikes first to see if they could minimize damage to this expensive vehicle.

We understand this is a battalion chief-- a battalion chief's vehicle right here. And as you said, Amy, not taken by force. It's suspected that this vehicle was on a call of some sort when it was commandeered by the person inside.

And that was actually in downtown Los Angeles where that happened. It was-- we heard around Flower at 7th Street. And then they lost sight of it, and this vehicle came all the way down to the south bay, down to Palos Verdes, and it was Palos Verdes PD that picked this up. And once it came back into the Harbor City-San Pedro area, they turned it back over to LAPD.

So you saw that just as we picked this one up that they did hit the spike strip. They believe at least one tire is losing air right now. Now on the wrong side of the road. The only saving grace for the public so far, Amy, is that this has been a slow-speed pursuit. But here we are on surface streets, and we'll see how desperate this suspect decides to get now that at least one of their tires is losing air, Amy.

- It actually looks like the front and rear tire have lost air there, Desmond. And it certainly seems to be impacting this driver and how they are able to get around. As you mentioned, it has been a slow pursuit, but it looks as though they're going even slower at this point.

And again, as you mentioned, it was taken from downtown and equipped with LoJack. So they were able to track this, as you mentioned. And now they have just been after this driver. And there are dark windows on this. Have you been able to see at all, Desmond, who's behind the wheel?

DESMOND SHAW: No, we have not been able to get to the front of the vehicle yet at this point to get a good look. You can see though we're beginning to speed up as we are on Pacific Avenue. Kind of headed back towards the ports and the 110 freeway. This was briefly on the 110. Came down toward San Pedro, then came right down to the end of Paseo del Mar, about as close to the ocean as you could get before he decided to turn back around and head northbound. That's when we saw LAPD with the spike-strip deployment.

Now even though they did succeed with the spike strips on one, possibly two tires, it's going to take some time for these tires to deflate, and that's by design because they don't want to create a situation where-- basically the spike strips don't, you know, rip the tire open because then there would be concerns of the vehicle losing control and crashing into vehicles or pedestrians. So it's by design that the spike strips deflate the tires very slowly. So just because we had that successful spike doesn't mean we're out of the woods yet or that the suspect is going to be forced to give up. It's still going to take some time for that to happen.

Although you could see a little bit, it looks like, with that tire off the rear passenger side, it is deflated so much. I think we're starting to see-- you see that kind of white smoke coming out there with all the rubber kind of grinding against the pavement. Let's see if they're going to give up right here--

- Pulling into a parking lot.

DESMOND SHAW: --going into a parking lot all the sudden. And you see an officer there out with weapons drawn. Hopefully we're coming to a conclusion. Just have to see what the suspect's next move is going to be.

Yeah, I think-- you know what? I think they are starting to give up here. We've come to a stop. Let's see if he gets out and runs or what's going to happen here.

- Yeah, this is certainly-- oh, the door. We see the door opening and someone getting out. Hands are not up at this point, but someone has gotten out of the vehicle and is standing and now getting on the ground, and it looks like an ending to this pursuit. And I'm sure the fire department is pleased that there is not any further damage to this battalion chief vehicle because, as you mentioned a little earlier, these are expensive vehicles. And they just now have to deal with some flat tires, it appears. But no major damage, which is certainly good.

DESMOND SHAW: Yeah, and you can see the officers out here with weapons drawn, or it looks like they have less-than-lethal force on this one. And there was some concern that there may have been some weapons or something that could be used like a weapon, especially axes, in the back of this truck. So they had actually summoned some additional units to get into this pursuit.

And that's why there was also more of a sense of urgency to bring this to an end. You saw with the spike strips once they got a good opportunity and really took advantage of the fact that this suspect was kind of hanging out in the same area doing circles and also not driving very quickly. So the spike strips, they did their job. There was a lot of talk about doing a pit maneuver, but they're definitely glad that they did not do that because, although it would have disabled the vehicle, it could have done some damage to this very expensive vehicle.

So so far it looks like we're getting pretty much a best-case scenario here. No one injured. No crashes. All that had to be sacrificed was one tire.

And we've got the suspect on the ground. And once they get him in cuffs, they're going to-- here they come right now. They're going to clear the vehicle, make sure nobody else is inside. And we should have an all clear here shortly.

- Yeah, and Desmond, you know, so often you just wonder was this person just bored looking to go on a little joyride? Why someone would take, you know, an LA Fire Department vehicle like this. We do know that oftentimes they're on the scene of an incident. And perhaps this one just left running and someone saw an opportunity and took advantage of it.

But as you mentioned, a lot of officers right there on the scene, and it does not appear at this point that there was anyone else in this SUV as they circle around it. And certainly an unusual situation, but we did have a fire truck stolen not too long ago, Desmond. I don't know if you remember that one but a fire truck taken. So people just seem to really take advantage of any situation that they can get here when it comes to going on a little joyride.

DESMOND SHAW: Yeah, we've seen all kinds of government vehicles taken. I'm thinking most recently about a Burbank Police Department parking-patrol vehicle that was stolen, and we've had police cars stolen as well and fire trucks, as you say.

We can now confirm that this vehicle was on a call in downtown Los Angeles somewhere along Broadway. But they-- I guess maybe they didn't realize that it was stolen until it was around 7th and Flower. And then, again, they basically lost track of it, but they used a LoJack to pick it back up in Palos Verdes, and then we came over toward San Pedro, so covered quite a bit of ground.

But very fortunate that this one, you didn't add with anyone being injured or killed or any terrible crashes. One person in custody, and it looks like we have the all clear, Amy.

- Yes which is certainly a good thing. And, you know, those spike strips really did what they were meant to do, Desmond. It looked like at one point the passenger-side rear tire when that driver was pulling into the parking lot, it almost looked like that tire was also flat. I don't know if you noticed that as well. And it also looks like the driver's side front tire is flat. And as you mentioned, it takes a little while, but that rear passenger-side tire really seemed to be a little wobbly as that driver pulled into that parking lot.

DESMOND SHAW: Yeah, absolutely, and that was, you know, what I think prompted the suspect to finally give it up. Here he is being put in the back of this vehicle right here. I think he probably realized how dangerous this was getting, and there was really no hope of getting away when they had this many units in pursuit and one of their choppers overhead and, again, you know, a LoJack system. So even if they didn't have any of that, they were going to find this vehicle at some point.

So, you know, we always wonder what someone's thinking when they steal any vehicle, especially a government vehicle. But, you know, at least they had the sense after getting a flat tire to not try to push this and end up, you know, ending it in a much more tragic fashion.

- Yeah, certainly a large response here, Desmond. And as you mentioned, which I hadn't really thought about, that there were, you know, weapons in the vehicle, perhaps, like you said, an ax and who knows what else was in there that could have been used as a weapon. But certainly a good thing that this one came to an end. No one was injured. A spike strip seemed to do its job. Some flat tires, and this one came to an end. The driver in custody.