California Retrospective: Southland history is filled with memorable police pursuits

O.J. Simpson
O.J. Simpson is pursued on the 91 Freeway in Buena Park in June 1994.
(Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles Times)

The wild police pursuit Monday was definitely one for the record books. As Southern California residents watched on TV and the Internet, a driver hit at least four other vehicles, seized a woman’s car and was eventually shot by police on a Montebello street.

Here are some other memorable pursuits:

Free money

Bank robbers threw money from a car as they drove through South L.A. during an hourlong chase in September 2012. Crowds eager to scoop up the cash had grown into a mob by the time the pursuit ended. It was not clear whether the suspected robbers were hurling the money out of their vehicle in an attempt to divert deputies or as a Robin Hood-like gesture.


“It’s our neighborhood stimulus package!” said Diane Dorsey, who watched the bedlam unfold from her frontyard at Kansas and Vernon avenues.

“Kids were smiling like it was Christmas,” added a neighbor, who gave only his first name, Desean.

The made-for-Hollywood chase began 40 miles to the north in Santa Clarita, when four armed men held up a Bank of America branch and fled in a black Volvo SUV that had been reported stolen hours earlier, police said. No serious injuries were reported during the chase.

Tank troubles


In 1995, a man stole a 53-ton Army tank in San Diego and plowed over power poles, fire hydrants and at least 40 cars before he crashed into a highway divider and was fatally shot by police. Authorities didn’t quite know how to approach the renegade M60, The Times reported.

“Everyone here was standing around saying, ‘How many miles per gallon does a tank get?’ and ‘How do you stop a tank?’ ” one California Highway Patrol dispatcher said.

The one with the U-Haul

You know you’re in the midst of a memorable pursuit when even the California Highway Patrol is cracking jokes on Twitter.

In April 2013, two people led authorities on a pursuit in a moving van, prompting the CHP Southern Division to tweet: “What is it about @uhaul trucks?!” The company responded: “Maybe it’s because they are so easy to drive!”

A suspect stole a U-Haul truck from Riverside and sped across slick, rainy roadways across the 91 Freeway and into Orange County before he was arrested after a authorities forced the truck to stop.

After it was over, @CHPSouthern couldn’t resist one more tweet: “Please be careful when opening the roll-up door as items may have shifted during pursuit.”

Corvette chase


In 2013, police chased the driver of a Corvette as he drove at high rates of speed through downtown L.A. After broadsiding another car, the driver got out and police fatally shot him. The pursuit and shooting were shown live on television.

The Los Angeles City Council approved a $5-million settlement last year with the family of the man, a National Guard veteran. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said he was concerned about the tactics used by officers involved in the shooting.

And most famously, O.J.

You can’t think of a police pursuit without thinking of a white Ford Bronco being chased by 20 LAPD squad cars as onlookers cheered and waved alongside the 405 Freeway.

In 1994, television networks and cable news channels aired two hours of nonstop coverage of the O.J. Simpson spectacle.

The former football star led police on a two-hour chase across Southern California in his white Ford Bronco after he was charged with killing his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.

As the slow-speed chase dragged on, people gathered on overpasses to wave and witness Simpson drive into the history books.

It was, as one entertainment lawyer put it, “the day Los Angeles stopped.”


Schaefer is a former Times staff writer.

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