Suspect dead after stealing police car, crashing into tree

- A man who stole a South Pasadena police cruiser was killed today when he crashed the vehicle into a tree on a freeway transition road in downtown Los Angeles.

The incident began on the transition from the eastbound Santa Monica (10) Freeway to the northbound Harbor (110) Freeway about 3 a.m. as the South Pasadena officer was driving back to the city after delivering a prisoner,
police said.

``(The) officer saw what appeared to be a disabled school bus stopped in the island between the merging traffic lanes,'' a police statement said.

``The officer pulled his police car onto the island in an attempt to render aid.

``The officer contacted the bus driver who told him he had come across a downed motorcycle in traffic lanes,'' police said. ``The bus driver further explained to the officer that he pulled the motorcycle out of traffic and onto
the island, but was unable to locate the rider.''

According to police, the officer searched along the freeway shoulder for the rider, but was unable to find anyone.

``The officer returned to the bus driver, and while he was getting further information, the officer saw a male subject approach on foot and walk towards the police car,'' police said. ``As the officer and bus driver were away from his police car, the officer believed the subject was the rider of the downed motorcycle who was approaching the police car for aid thinking it was occupied by (the officer).

``The officer then saw the suspect climb into the police car through the passenger's door,'' police said. ``The officer ran back to his vehicle and attempted to disable the police car. A struggle between the officer and suspect for control of the vehicle resulted, but the suspect was able to drive off with the officer being momentarily dragged by the vehicle.''

The officer, who suffered a minor ankle injury, notified the police communications center, and a search for the suspect and patrol car began.

Within minutes, the California Highway Patrol received 911 calls from motorists reporting a crashed police car at the transition from the northbound Harbor (110) Freeway to the southbound Hollywood (101) Freeway, police said.

The man, in his 30s, was found dead in the driver's seat. His name was withheld, pending notification of kin.

The CHP closed the transition road for about four hours while an investigation was conducted. Anyone with information on the case was urged to call detectives at (626) 403-7280.

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