Driver of stolen big rig carrying hazardous material surrenders after three-hour pursuit

A man suspected of stealing a big rig filled with low-grade hazardous material led authorities on a three-hour pursuit before ultimately surrendering at a truck stop in Whitewater on Tuesday afternoon.

The pursuit had began at about 10:30 a.m. between Barstow and Victorville, according to the California Highway Patrol. It ended in Whitewater at about 1:30 p.m.

The renegade trucker kept television news viewers riveted to the screen for hours as he refused to pull over for the CHP and sped south on the 15 Freeway to the 60 Freeway. As police and news aircraft hovered overhead, the big rig traveled east through the Badlands and onto the 10 Freeway in Beaumont and then north on Highway 62, toward Joshua Tree National Park, before making a U-turn.

The driver spoke with CHP officials on the phone and said he “didn’t want to go back to jail,” authorities said.

The truck was reported stolen about 6 a.m. in Barstow by its driver, who noticed his truck missing when he woke up at his hotel, said Walter Singer, president of ACT Enviro, which owns the truck and its trailer. It was spotted about 90 minutes later by deputies. The trailer is carrying non-RCRA material, or material that does not meet the definition of hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Singer said. 

The material is essentially worthless, Singer said. According to the California Dept. of Toxic Substances Control, non-RCRA material may include corrosive solid materials.

The material was not flammable, explosive, acidic, biologic or radioactive, Singer said.

The suspect disabled the truck’s primary GPS tracking device but not a secondary one also on board, Singer said. The active device showed that the truck was near the Grapevine about 9:30 a.m., according to Singer.

ACT Enviro is a Sunnyvale-based company that disposes hazardous waste, according to its website.

At about 1 p.m., the driver made a U-turn on Highway 62 and headed back toward the 10 Freeway. At about 1:30 p.m., he pulled off the westbound 10 Freeway and into a truck rest area in Whitewater, pulling the big-rig neatly into a marked parking space. 

The driver then stepped from the cab, raised his arms and surrendered to police. 

Joseph.serna@latimes.com

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.

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UPDATES:

1:55 p.m.: This article was updated with details on the conclusion of the chase.

1:15 p.m.: This article was updated with details on the beginning of the pursuit.

This article was originally published at 12:20 p.m.

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