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Suspected car thief from Huntington Beach dies following freeway altercation

Suspected car thief from Huntington Beach dies following freeway altercation
The eastbound 10 Freeway approaching San Gabriel Boulevard. A Huntington Beach man attacked several cars with a tire iron on this stretch before being tackled by other motorists. He later died in a hospital in Los Angeles. (Google Maps)

An auto theft suspect from Huntington Beach died Monday after he rammed a stolen van into several cars on the 10 Freeway, climbed out and then smashed the windows of stopped and slowing cars with a tire iron before being tackled by motorists, the California Highway Patrol said.

Ramon Javier Lopez Jr., 39, died before noon Monday at a hospital in Los Angeles after a series of events that halted Christmas Eve traffic on the freeway in the San Gabriel Valley area, California Highway Patrol Officer Giovanni Bembi said in a written statement.

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The events began around 11:15 a.m. when Lopez — erratically driving a GMC Safari van that was reported stolen from Huntington Park — struck a silver Scion xB on the eastbound 10 in Alhambra, the officer said.

Lopez fled in the van and continued driving east.

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Moments later, Lopez struck a Volkswagen Jetta and fled again, Bembi said.

Due to the front end damage, the van soon became disabled and blocked the No. 1 lane west of San Gabriel Boulevard in Rosemead.

As traffic slowed, Lopez exited the van wielding a small tire iron, Bembi said.

Lopez then jumped on the hood of a black BMW in the No. 3 lane and struck the BMW’s windshield, sending glass debris into the car’s interior, according to the CHP.

The BMW’s driver was later treated for shock but did not suffer serious injuries, Bembi said. A passenger in the BMW was uninjured.

A gray Toyota Corolla slowed alongside the BMW, and Lopez jumped from the BMW and struck the Toyota’s left-side window with the tire iron, causing it to shatter, according to the police account. The Corolla driver immediately drove away uninjured.

Lopez allegedly turned his attention to a Ford Explorer in the No. 1 lane, smashing his body into vehicle’s left side and denting the rear door.

Lopez cursed the driver and passenger and grabbed the door handles, possibly in an attempt to carjack the Explorer, Bembi said.

At that point all traffic came to a stop and a group of drivers got out of their cars and tackled Lopez, Bembi said.

An ambulance in the area stopped to give aid, but when when the paramedics reached Lopez he was unresponsive. The San Gabriel Fire Department transported him to Los Angeles County USC Medical Center, where he died of cardiac arrest, according to the CHP.

It was unclear whether drugs or alcohol factored into Lopez’s behavior.

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