A police pursuit led to a wrong-way crash and fatal gunshots fired from a Sheriff’s Department helicopter Friday afternoon, leaving three people hospitalized and prompting the closure of all lanes of the northbound 215 Freeway just south of the Cajon Pass.
The driver was a home-invasion robbery suspect, and the sheriff’s Specialized Enforcement Division attempted to take him into custody during a traffic stop about 12:49 p.m., San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Olivia Bozek said during an afternoon news conference at the scene.
The driver failed to stop and was pursued through Fontana, San Bernardino and onto the 215 Freeway, she said.
At some point, while driving the wrong way on the northbound 215 Freeway in northern San Bernardino, the driver was struck by gunshots fired by a deputy in a sheriff’s helicopter, sheriff’s Deputy Deon Filer said.
The wounded driver got out of his Chevrolet Tahoe, which continued to move and crashed into another vehicle, a Dodge Durango.
The man ran away on foot and collapsed, Filer said.
Three people who were inside the Durango were taken to a hospital, authorities said.
Filer said he could not think specifically of a previous time when shots were fired from a sheriff’s helicopter, but he said deputies were prepared to do so.
“It doesn’t happen every day, for certain, but our deputies are trained to fire from the helicopter,” Filer said.
The pursuit had reached speeds of over 100 mph on surface streets before the shooting, Bozek said. Action was needed to prevent “more injuries to the public,” Bozek said.
“It’s a public safety issue once he starts going the wrong way. Obviously, he doesn’t care about passengers or pedestrians or other cars,” she said.
Aerial video showed a yellow tarp covering an apparent body on the side of the roadway. The two SUVs at the scene had severe front-end damage.
The tarp was on the side of the freeway, a few dozen feet from the crash wreckage and on the other side of an underpass.
Northbound lanes were shut down due to police activity about 1:40 p.m., and a SigAlert was issued, according to the California Highway Patrol incident log.
The closure was in effect at Little League Drive (map), a few miles below the Cajon Pass. Traffic was backed up to the 210 Freeway, according to CHP.
Vehicles were being diverted off at Palm Avenue, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
Caltrans District 8 warned that all traffic through the High Desert would be impacted through the Friday evening commute.
As of midnight, the northbound lanes were still shut down as investigators continued to work throughout the night.
The driver’s body was also still at the scene. He had not been identified.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said shots were fired after the driver exited the vehicle. In fact, the helicopter deputy shot the driver while he was still in the SUV, according to Deputy Filer. The story has been updated.