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Police badge deflects bullet in shootout, gunman dies in fiery crash

A Huntington Beach police officer escaped serious injury when his badge deflected a bullet fired by a suspect, who then led law enforcement officers on a high-speed chase through three counties before dying in a fiery crash in the Cajon Pass, author

A man who shot at Huntington Beach police officers, hitting one officer in the badge, led police on a high-speed chase through three counties before dying in a fiery crash in the Cajon Pass, authorities said.

Just after midnight Friday, Huntington Beach police responded to a domestic violence call at a home near Bushard Street and Yorktown Avenue. As two officers in two separate cars were pulling up, a man was getting into his vehicle to leave the residence, said Officer Jennifer Marlatt, a spokeswoman for the Huntington Beach Police Department.

The officers followed the man, who made a U-turn, drove toward the officers and started firing at them from his vehicle, Marlatt said. 

A bullet ricocheted off the police badge worn by one of the officers, who was treated at a hospital and released Friday morning. He was in good condition, Marlatt said. 

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The other officer returned fire, and the man, whose name has not been released, kept driving, initiating the pursuit. 

He drove through Costa Mesa and Santa Ana, then got onto the freeways, leading California Highway Patrol officers through Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. 

For “reasons that are still under investigation,” the man drove off the Cleghorn Road offramp on the northbound 15 Freeway, said CHP Officer Steve Carapia.

The driver veered to the right and went down into an embankment, where his white Nissan Altima burst into flames, Carapia said. The car was consumed by the fire, and the man died. He was the car’s only occupant, authorities said.

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The crash happened in an area affected by the Blue Cut wildfire, and there were burned spots all around, Carapia said. Firefighters responded quickly to keep the fire from spreading and extinguished the fire.

The Cleghorn offramp on the northbound 15 Freeway was closed Friday morning, as was one lane of the freeway, Carapia said. The offramp would likely be closed for several hours, he said.

“This investigation is complex,” he said. “There are many agencies involved, so it’s going to be a while. It’s going to last through the afternoon.”

The Huntington Beach Police Department declined to release details about the gunman or the domestic violence call. 

The investigation into the officer-involved shooting, as well as the pursuit and the domestic violence incident, would be handled by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Marlatt said.

hailey.branson@latimes.com

Twitter: @haileybranson

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