A man shocked bystanders when he jumped into an empty police cruiser and sped off, prompting police to give chase. However, the high-speed chase came to a terrifying halt when he opened the door and jumped out of the vehicle while barreling down the highway.
California officials launched an investigation into an incident involving a stolen police vehicle and a reckless driver after shocking video footage was captured of a police chase. Disturbingly, the details surrounding the case paint a dark picture of the series of events that lead to an untimely death and a myriad of questions.
The incident unfolded on Highway 5 near Castaic just before noon. Police say the suspect, whose name was not immediately released, had crashed his own Toyota Corolla into another vehicle on the highway. What happened next kicked off a series of bizarre events, all of which were captured on camera.
Dash cam footage from a bystander shows the moment a California Highway Patrol car was commandeered by the unidentified man. The suspect had just crashed and was positioned on the side of the road as he waited for the police to arrive. Once an officer pulled up and exited his cruiser, the man quickly jumped into the squad car and took off, leaving the confused officer abandoned on the highway.
A police chase ensued, and a Fox 11 News chopper followed the nearly 90-minute chase as the suspect rolled through intersections, swerved in and out of traffic at 100 mph, and even ran over police spike strips. Then, while going nearly 50 mph, the driver suddenly opened the door and leaned outside.
Much to the shock and disbelief of onlookers, the man leaped from the driver's seat, hitting the pavement with his feet and slamming the back of his head on the road. He rolled several times before he came to a stop. The police cruiser veered off the highway, driving through a utility pole and taking the telephone lines down with it.
Within seconds, officers swarmed upon the suspect, arresting him and assessing his condition. The video shows the man still moving his legs before a medic administers "life-saving" treatment at the scene. He was later transported by ambulance to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
ABC News reported that officials said the suspect had brandished a shotgun and a rifle. However, there was no word as to who owned the weapons. The suspect was also reported to have suffered from mental health issues.
The circumstances sparked questions as to how the man was able to steal the police cruiser. According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), police cruisers are required to be locked with the engine running if an officer exits the vehicle. Although several weapons were locked in the cruiser, the suspect was not able to access the weapons.
"I do not know what happened in this circumstance, but it is standard procedure" for cruisers to be locked when left running in such cases, CHP Officer Alec Pereyda said. "Luckily, [the weapons] did not become unlocked in the patrol vehicle, and he was not able to gain access to those."
Although it wasn't immediately confirmed, mental health issues were believed to have been a factor. There is little else that could explain the man's erratic and dangerous behavior. Whatever the case, the horrific series of events tragically ended with one man's unnecessary and untimely death.