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California

Motorcyclist hits and kills pedestrian in downtown L.A. during police pursuit, CHP says

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A crash that killed a pedestrian in downtown Los Angeles left debris scattered along the roadway early Friday.
(OnScene.TV)

A pedestrian was struck and killed in downtown Los Angeles by a motorcyclist who was being chased by police overnight, authorities said Friday.

Officers initially tried to stop the motorcyclist, identified as 27-year-old Brian Jesse Leon, on suspicion of running a red light in an unincorporated area near Whittier about 11:40 p.m. Thursday, but he refused to pull over, California Highway Patrol Officer Jeremy Tolen said.

Authorities pursued Leon as he traveled south on the 605 and north on the 5 and 101 freeways on a 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 250 sport motorcycle. The motorcycle reached speeds up to 107 mph during the pursuit, which lasted past midnight, Tolen said.

Leon eventually exited the 101 Freeway in downtown L.A. at speeds up to 60 mph, ran a red light and struck a pedestrian crossing Arcadia Street in a crosswalk near Main Street, Tolen said.

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The pedestrian, who has not been identified, was pronounced dead at the scene. Leon was taken to County-USC Medical Center, where he remains in critical condition.

Authorities arrested Leon on suspicion of murder and evading a peace officer resulting in death. He also has an arrest warrant for an unspecified parole violation and a $50,000 traffic warrant, Tolen said.

Criminologists often warn police agencies against engaging in chases unless the suspect they are pursuing is wanted in a serious crime. Several law enforcement agencies in California — including San Francisco, San Jose and Long Beach — instruct their officers to chase only drivers who are wanted in a violent felony or present an immediate danger to the public.

Still, bystander fatalities are rare in California chases. According to a Times analysis of pursuit data, the California Highway Patrol engaged in more than 26,000 car chases from 2002 to 2015. Of those, 25 ended in the death of a bystander.

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