Another High-Speed Chase : Police Catch Their Man on the Rerun

Times Staff Writer

Fountain Valley police couldn't believe it Monday when they found themselves chasing a suspected robber into a Santa Ana parking garage.

Just one day before, they had chased a man into the same structure, but he got away.

But police believe it was the same man in both instances.

"It was like deja vu, " Fountain Valley police Lt. Mike Hanrahan said.

Ricky Joe Johnson, 32, of Bellflower was arrested Monday afternoon on suspicion of burglary, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon after he led police cruisers and helicopters on a high-speed chase that caused a four-car collision on the Santa Ana Freeway, injuring one motorist, police said.

Held in Jail

Johnson was being held Monday night at the Orange County Jail on an outstanding no-bail parole violation, Hanrahan said.

Johnson had been serving a sentence for auto theft and burglary at Soledad State Prison before being released last month to a halfway house in Southern California but from which he had recently escaped, police said.

Authorities said Johnson apparently tried to rob of Vons supermarket Sunday in Fountain Valley. He eluded police after a high-speed chase over two freeways and through several cities and disappeared inside a parking garage at the MainPlace/Santa Ana shopping mall, police said. Police recovered a stolen 1987 Mustang.

The next day, police said, Johnson walked into a Fountain Valley stationery store in the 18000 block of Magnolia Street and snatched a cash box before fleeing past a startled clerk. He sped away in a stolen beige van, police said.

Johnson led police in patrol cruisers and two helicopters down the San Diego Freeway, on surface streets in Irvine and Tustin before getting on the Santa Ana Freeway, where he caused a four-car collision near the 17th Street exit, police said.

Collision Victim

Sheila Maurine, 47, of Santa Ana, was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange with leg and arm injuries. She was listed in fair condition Monday night.

A Fountain Valley police officer was unhurt in the collision, in which patrol car skidded off the freeway and crashed into a tree, police said.

Johnson continued to the Garden Grove and Santa Ana Freeway interchange before running the van off the freeway and fleeing on foot into the MainPlace parking garage.

This time, however, he was nabbed. A Santa Ana motorcycle officer had chased him inside on foot.

But Johnson wasn't going to jail easily. After being handcuffed and placed into the back seat of a patrol car, he wriggled free and started the patrol car as unsuspecting police officers stood outside.

Within seconds, five police officers wrestled him out of the car to the ground and had handcuffed his hands and ankles.

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