SAN DIEGO — A thief forcibly stole a man’s car at an Encinitas strip mall Tuesday, only to abandon it a short time later in Carlsbad, where he made a failed bid to disguise himself and escape, authorities said.
The 64-year-old owner of the 2009 Toyota Corolla had just finished using a walk-up ATM in front of a Chase bank branch in the 100 block of North El Camino Real when he saw a man walk up to the sedan and get into the driver’s seat about 7:45 a.m., sheriff’s Sgt. Joe Tomaiko said.
The victim, who had left the keys in the vehicle, hurried over and reached inside through a window to try to halt the theft. Instead, he wound up dragged alongside his car for a short distance before tumbling to the pavement, but suffered no serious injuries.
Deputies searched the area for the red Corolla and asked area law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for it, Tomaiko said. Less than 15 minutes later, police in Carlsbad reported finding the compact car ditched in an beach-front neighborhood in the 3000 block of Ocean Street and seeing someone running away from it.
As officers gave chase, the fleeing man forced his way into a home, where he stole clothing from a resident “in an attempt to change his appearance,” the sergeant said.
Officers took the suspect into custody moments later as he emerged from the home. Believing he was under the influence of some sort of controlled substance, deputies took him to a hospital for an evaluation, Tomaiko said.
The suspect, who is believed to be in his mid-20s, refused to give his name or other personal information to law enforcement or hospital personnel. Investigators were still trying to confirm his identity Tuesday afternoon.