July 3, 2008 in Nation/World

Cell phone traffic stop prompts high-speed chase (Los Angeles)

Francisco Vara-Orta Los Angeles Times
 

LOS ANGELES – A man pulled over by Beverly Hills police Wednesday afternoon for violating the new “hands-free” cell phone law led authorities on a wild chase in a stolen van, striking cars along Wilshire Boulevard before driving the wrong way onto the Interstate 405 Freeway.

The incident began shortly before 1 p.m. when an officer stopped a driver in his 20s after seeing him talk on his cell phone without a hands-free device, said Beverly Hills police spokesman Lt. Tony Lee.

When the officer ran a check on the white Ford Econoline van’s license plate, he learned the vehicle had been reported stolen. As the officer exited his patrol car and approached the van, the suspect took off.

“He was driving recklessly at a very high speed,” Lee said.

The man hit at least two other cars as he fled.

Lee said he did not know if anyone was injured in the collisions but no fatalities were reported.

The man then drove south onto the northbound 405 freeway at Wilshire Boulevard, Lee said. Moments later he crashed into an embankment but kept going.

California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles police officers patrolling in cars and a helicopter joined the pursuit. The chase ended when the man exited the freeway and was surrounded, Lee said.

Beverly Hills police then arrested the man. Lee said the driver so far has refused to speak to authorities, but drugs or alcohol do not appear to have played a role.

“You could tell he was nervous when he got pulled over,” Lee said. “But this behavior is just not normal.”


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