Woman pleads guilty to stealing CHP cruiser
SAN DIEGO — A woman who stole a California Highway Patrol cruiser while handcuffed, setting off a police chase that ended when she crashed the vehicle into two cars in Mission Valley, pleaded guilty today to four charges, including felony reckless evading.
Casaundra Rose Lane, 27, also known as Casaundra Rose Harvey, will be sentenced to four years and eight months in state prison at a hearing Feb. 24.
The defendant — who has a previous conviction for possession of heroin – – also pleaded guilty to theft of a law enforcement vehicle and assault with a deadly weapon charges on the day that her preliminary hearing was scheduled to get underway.
“You had people driving on the (5) freeway and the (163) freeway in Mission Valley, and they’re seeing a patrol vehicle driving in this fashion and I assume that they’re considering that this is a police officer in this vehicle that’s weaving in and out of traffic and driving in this fashion,” Deputy District Attorney Michael Runyon told reporters outside court. “Endangering the citizens of the community in that fashion, it’s very, very important to seek some type of resolution in this case.”
A CHP officer originally arrested the defendant near De Anza Cove about 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 6 in connection with a hit-and-run collision on southbound Interstate 5.
Lane abandoned a stolen car after the collision and was taken into custody as she emerged from the ocean, the prosecutor said.
The defendant was handcuffed and placed in the back seat of the CHP cruiser, but as the officer talked with a tow truck driver, Lane managed to climb into the front seat and drive off, Runyon said.
Lane drove on the shoulder of Interstate 5 and onto surface streets in Mission Valley, running through stop signs at speeds over 70 mph before crashing into two cars stopped at a red light near Qualcomm Way.
When the defendant stopped, police surrounded the CHP cruiser because they didn’t know if Lane would try to use the weapons inside the police vehicle, Runyon said.
“You have a patrol vehicle that has a shotgun … if you know how to access it and access the locks, as well as numerous rounds of ammunition, so the potential for danger is certainly present,” Runyon said.
Runyon said people should use common sense when dealing with law enforcement.
“When police officers contact you, it’s a pretty good idea to cooperate with the investigation, (and) it’s a really bad idea to steal a patrol vehicle,” the prosecutor said.