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Man, 80, Is Arrested, Released After 4-County Freeway Chase

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An elderly man led California Highway Patrol officers on a high-speed chase across four Southern California counties Tuesday, finally being seized only because southbound Interstate 5 near Oceanside was closed due to a potential suicide victim threatening to jump from an overpass, officials said.

After being arrested at the scene, the 80-year-old suspect, identified as K. Stanley Rutkowski of Oceanside, was given a misdemeanor speeding citation and driven home by CHP officers, said Ted Prola, the agency’s public affairs officer in Oceanside.

Prola said preliminary tests indicated that Rutkowski, whom he described as “very disoriented,” was not driving under the influence. Rutkowski, he said, confided to one arresting officer that he had been a World War II fighter in his native Poland; when asked why he led officers on the freeway chase, he reportedly replied, “I just screwed up.”

Although Rutkowski drove as fast as 100 m.p.h. for much of the two-hour-plus chase, Prola said investigators felt a felony citation was, in the end, not warranted, because of “limited endangerment to others.”

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Officials said the chase began shortly after 1 p.m. in Ventura County, where CHP officers attempted to stop a white Ford Taurus said to be traveling more than 100 m.p.h.

Beginning eastbound on U.S. 101 in Oxnard, the chase proceeded south on the San Diego Freeway through Los Angeles County, then into Orange County, and finally into San Diego County along Interstate 5, said CHP Officer Tito Gomez.

Were it not for the suicide attempt, which closed Interstate 5, the chase would have continued, said CHP Officer Phil Konstantin. Officers apprehended Rutkowski at 3:37 p.m., about half an hour after the would-be jumper appeared atop a freeway sign.

Negotiators finally talked the man down about 8:20 p.m., officials said. The incident, which had stranded Rutkowski in bumper-to-bumper traffic, had backed up motorists from Oceanside to the San Clemente Border Patrol checkpoint 15 miles to the north.

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No one was injured.


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