Three times Sunday, police in hot pursuit raced after suspects on Orange County streets and freeways, in one case dodging bullets as well as traffic. The long-distance chases ended with all nine suspects under arrest, without injuries, authorities said.
In the first pursuit, which began at 2:34 a.m. in Anaheim, shots were fired at police, authorities said. The suspects were caught in Los Angeles County.
In the second chase, which began at 3 a.m. on West Coast Highway in Newport Beach, police captured three young men in an allegedly stolen truck after they roared through Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Garden Grove and Santa Ana.
The third police chase began about 3:30 p.m. on the San Diego Freeway in Irvine and ended without incident near Carson in Los Angeles County.
Officer Spotted Car
The Anaheim chase began during the dark, early-morning hours when an officer in a residential area near Ball Road spotted a 1984 BMW sedan that had been reported stolen in Fullerton.
The officer tried to stop the car, but the driver sped away and the chase began, Anaheim Police Sgt. Ed Pierson said.
Anaheim officers were assisted by Buena Park police and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department as they chased the car west on the Artesia Freeway into Artesia. The suspects were caught after their car went off the road in a residential area and they tried to run away, Anaheim Sgt. David Severson said.
During the chase, one or more of the car's occupants fired shots at the pursuing officers but missed, Pierson said.
Anaheim police arrested Jose Luis Gomez, 20, of Norwalk, a 16-year-old and two 15-year-old youths, Pierson said, all on suspicion of robbery, kidnaping, assault with a deadly weapon and grand theft auto.
The owner of the allegedly stolen car was forcibly moved before the chase began, resulting in the kidnaping charge, he said.
About half an hour after the Anaheim chase began, police in Newport Beach became involved in a 40-minute chase of an allegedly stolen truck through four cities. Three young suspects were finally arrested when the truck was forced to stop at a dead end in Santa Ana.
No one was hurt in the Newport chase, but the truck at one point hit a 6-foot-tall, wrought-iron gate and dragged it, sparks flying, for several miles.
Officers identified those arrested after the chase as Mark A. Denhamer, 20, and Won Young Jung, 19, both of Downey, and a 16-year-old Norwalk youth, who was not identified. Police said the youth was the driver of the truck.
Lt. Tim Riley said a Newport Beach officer tried to stop the truck on West Coast Highway about 3 a.m. after he saw it speeding and being driven erratically. The driver, however, sped off into Huntington Beach, Riley said, and passengers in the truck threw articles of clothing and papers from the truck toward pursuing police.
The pursuit continued into Garden Grove and ended in Santa Ana where Trask Avenue dead-ends at the Santa Ana River, Riley said.
He said all three people in the truck, which was allegedly stolen in Los Angeles County, were booked on suspicion of grand theft auto.
In the third chase, Irvine police said they were alerted about 3:30 p.m. to the theft of irrigation pipes from Irvine Co. farmland off Sand Canyon Avenue. Police Sgt. Steve Frew said an Irvine Co. security guard notified police that a truck had roared off with the pipes, and headed north on the San Diego Freeway.
Followed to L.A. County
Frew said Irvine police found the truck a short time later as it moved north on the freeway; they followed it into Los Angeles County.
When the truck exited the freeway in the Carson area, Irvine police stopped the vehicle and arrested two men inside, Frew said.
They were identified as brothers Richard C. Neumann, 24, of Huntington Beach and James T. Neumann, 27, of Orange.
James Neumann was having breathing difficulties when arrested and was taken to Harbor General Hospital in Torrance for treatment and observation, Frew said. His brother was brought back to Orange County after being arrested.
Both are suspected of possessing stolen property and of evading police, Frew said.
Motorists who try to escape police are few in number, according to law enforcement officials. Frew said there are several reasons, however, why some people in cars think they can elude officers who signal them to pull over.
Reasons for Fleeing
"Sometimes it's because the drivers are so intoxicated they don't really know what they're doing," he said. "Sometimes it's because people think all they have to do is get physically out of sight--that police don't have their license number or description. And we've had people who've told us that they thought if they could just get back to their own driveways, police couldn't touch them--that it was King's X (safety).
"There are really many reasons. I guess we could make a million dollars if we could figure out the mind of a criminal. But I think a basic reason (people try to flee police) is just lack of common sense."