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Suspect who poisoned himself while fleeing police on 101 Freeway was wanted for rape of teenage girl

Jonathan Hanks, the 33-year-old Camarillo man who killed himself by drinking liquid cyanide while fleeing from police Wednesday, was wanted for the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl in Los Angeles, police said.
(Los Angeles Police Department)

A 33-year-old man who drank poison and died while fleeing police on the 101 Freeway in Ventura County on Wednesday was wanted for the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl inside a Los Angeles motel, authorities said.

Jonathan Hanks, of Camarillo, had been accused of luring the teen to a Reseda motel and assaulting her on Feb. 4, according to LAPD Detective Ninette Toosbuy.

Police were serving an arrest warrant at Hanks’ Camarillo home and confronted him early Wednesday morning, Toosbuy said. Hanks, who appeared to be preparing to drive to work, ignored officers command and sped off, hopping a curb in the process, she said.

Undercover LAPD officers followed Hanks toward the 101 Freeway and then notified the California Highway Patrol.

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The CHP tried to pull over Hanks near the Oxnard Boulevard exit, but he ignored their commands. The vehicle drifted across all three lanes of traffic and struck the center divider a short time later, near the Seaward Avenue exit, the CHP said.

He was found dead in his car. Toosbuy said Hanks drank liquid cyanide while being chased by CHP officers.

“Obviously since we can’t get a statement from him, it’s speculation on my part, but something tells me that psychologically he might have thought at some point this might catch up to me,” Toosbuy said.

Hanks contacted the victim through Snapchat in December, and eventually convinced her to “sneak out of her home” to meet in Reseda in early February, Toosbuy said.

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He assaulted her inside the motel, according to Toosbuy, who said the victim sustained non-life-threatening injuries. The LAPD became aware of the attack the next day.

Investigators have “reason to believe there were other victims,” but none have come forward yet. Hanks did not have any prior convictions, Toosbuy said.

Toosbuy said she hopes the incident will make parents more aware of the need to monitor their children’s social media activities. Law enforcement has noticed an uptick in the use of social media as a hunting ground for sexual predators, she said.

“Social media presents some real risk and challenges for young people who are vulnerable,” Toosbuy said. “If you don’t talk to your children openly about what’s out there, this could happen.”

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james.queally@latimes.com

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for crime and police news in California.


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