A suspected auto thief who led police on a high-speed chase and then tried to ram a police officer with a stolen truck was fatally shot by officers in Newport Beach this morning, authorities said.
The shooting victim, who carried no identification and had no weapon, was pronounced dead at the scene of the 4:45 a.m. shooting at the intersection of 40th Street and Seashore Drive, Fountain Valley Police Detective Darryl B. Nance said.
It was the fourth incident this year in which Orange County police officers shot and killed a suspect.
The suspect had wedged the truck between a wall and a parked car after spinning out of control. Police officers opened fire when he tried to free the truck and ram the police officers, Nance said.
The shooting incident woke up residents in the tourist-oriented beach community for blocks as police cars from both Fountain Valley and Newport Beach followed closely behind the truck through narrow one-way streets.
"I could hear the sirens coming for blocks," resident Robert Howard, 28, said. "There was a lot of noise, a crash and then I heard pretty much a flurry of shots."
The chase began at 4:20 a.m. this morning, when Huntington Beach police put out an alert that a gray, late-model Blazer had been stolen on Beach Boulevard. A Fountain Valley police officer driving a canine unit spotted the Blazer traveling eastbound on Warner Avenue, Nance said.
The man then turned right at Brookhurst Street, and with two patrol units following, reached speeds of up to 100 m.p.h., headed toward Pacific Coast Highway, Nance said.
The chase ended on the peninsula when the man lost control of the vehicle while trying to turn onto 40th Street from Seashore Drive, witnesses said. It hit two parked cars and broke a concrete wall as the driver tried to make his escape.
While the driver was working the vehicle back and forth in an attempt to free himself, witness Todd Guevara said, one officer jumped out of his car and began yelling for the driver to stop the vehicle.
The man apparently refused to comply, Guevara said.
"He (the officer) was screaming at the top of his lungs," Guevara said. "But this guy was out of his mind. He was jerking (the car) back and forth trying to get away.
"He looked like he was ready to do anything," Guevara said. "He wouldn't stop. I'd be freaked too if I was a cop."
Other residents wondered if the police officers were justified in shooting an unarmed man, however.
"I don't really think they had a good enough reason to kill him," said Scot Thompson, Guevara's next-door neighbor.
Nance said that the Newport Beach Police Department and the Orange County district attorney's office were investigating the incident.