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Prison Escapee Captured After Chase in 7 Cities

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A state prison escapee was arrested Monday after leading police on a chase that wound through seven cities and onto residential streets, reaching speeds of 95 m.p.h., authorities said.

Nearly two months after fleeing from a state work camp, Dean Michael Wills, 27, of Whittier caught police attention by driving a truck in Cypress with broken taillights.

“At first, the police officers were trying to pull him over just to talk to him about an equipment violation,” Cypress Police Sgt. Gordon Re said. “But he sped up. So they followed.” The fugitive ditched the borrowed truck in Lakewood after its tires blew out. He jumped over the fences of several back yards before a resident noticed a man prowling behind her house and called police, authorities said.

Officers had pursued Wills, who was sentenced to four years on drug charges, through Cypress, Garden Grove, Westminster, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach, Long Beach and finally Lakewood.

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Wills, in a telephone interview from the Cypress City Jail, said he was “just cruising along” when he saw the police and panicked.

Wills said that on Sept. 24, while participating in a prison work program near Hemet, he walked out of the prison camp in the middle of the night and was picked up by a friend who was waiting nearby.

He said he returned to Los Angeles County to spend time with his 18-month-old son and the boy’s mother and was living there until Monday’s arrest.

“There’s a reason for my escape but I can’t talk about it,” Wills said. “I wanted to be with my family, that was part of it.”

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About 12:20 a.m. Monday, police officers had spotted Wills driving a pickup truck with broken lights near Katella Avenue and Walker Street, Re said.

“I sped up, figuring I would just lose him real fast,” Wills said. “But the cops also sped up. And by that time, I’ve already committed myself to losing this cop, so I just punched it. It was too late to stop.”

At Los Coyotes Diagonal in Long Beach, the escapee drove over a center divider and blew out two tires, police said. The man continued driving with the flat tires to the 4500 block of Shadeway Road in Lakewood, where he abandoned the vehicle.

“I tried to run because I didn’t know what else to do,” Wills said. “I saw a helicopter over me and I was real close to running out of gas.”

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The police helicopter tracked Wills as he ran through several back yards, and he was arrested near the home of the woman who had spied him in her yard and alerted police, Re said. Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and Lakewood police assisted in the arrest.

Wills was being held Monday without bail on suspicion of evading police, resisting arrest, driving with a suspended license and giving a false name to police.

No one was injured in the chase, authorities said.

The California Department of Corrections has been searching for Wills, who was in custody at the Sierra Conservation Center near Bakersfield. He was convicted in 1994 of methamphetamine possession with intent to sell, records show. He also was wanted in connection with 10 other arrest warrants for traffic and narcotics violations.

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Wills was scheduled to be arraigned today at Municipal Court in Westminster.


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