CHULA VISTA, Calif. – A man was jailed after reportedly stealing the unmarked truck of an off-duty El Cajon police officer Wednesday and later leading authorities on a high-speed pursuit that ended in the South Bay, sheriff’s officials said.
The chase involving a stolen pickup truck concluded about midnight near the Otay Ranch Town Center in Chula Vista when the suspect crashed into a fire hydrant, a San Diego County sheriff’s sergeant told OnScene.TV. It began about 9 p.m. when the man stole the truck near a 7-Eleven store in the area of Magnolia Avenue and Mission Gorge Road in Santee.
The sergeant said authorities were not able to locate the man for hours after he took possession of the truck.
Deputies in Lakeside later received a suspicious person call at the Jack in the Box at Lake Jennings Park Road and Highway 8 Business in El Cajon. At the time, the reporting party told deputies all of the truck’s doors were open and the man was “walking around with a gun in his waistband,” the sergeant said.
Responding within minutes, authorities saw the suspect’s truck and positively identified the license plate when the man was pulling out of the fast-food restaurant.
They then initiated a pursuit with the man. It began on westbound Interstate 8 to state Route 94 to southbound state Route 125, the sergeant said. The driver continued southbound on the SR-125 toll road, where he crossed over the center median and drove the wrong way for a time with speeds up to 100 mph.
“If that was not a police car with weapons inside, I would have canceled that pursuit,” the sergeant said. “He was going too fast.”
The suspect exited SR-125 at Birch Street, where some deputies were able to keep following him and the agency’s ASTREA helicopter was overhead tracking his movements.
The sergeant said the helicopter witnessed the man crash into the fire hydrant in Chula Vista, at which point he ran from the truck before being arrested.
At least two police officers suffered minor injuries in the incident, the sergeant said. One El Cajon officer was bitten by a police K-9 and a sheriff’s deputy was scratched. The suspect, who was not publicly identified, was uninjured.
No further details on the incident were immediately available.