A 47-year-old man sitting inside in a sheriff’s patrol car laughed at news cameras as he was being taken away from the scene of a flaming U-Haul in which he’d led authorities on a pursuit that ended in Bellflower Tuesday morning.
“Good morning, L.A.,” was the suspect’s response when asked if he had anything to say after the 2-hour long pursuit that went from Orange County through downtown Los Angeles and back again.
Investigators said the 26-foot U-Haul Super Mover was originally stolen from a business in Irvine. The Super Mover is the largest truck U-Haul offers to the public for moving, according to its website.
The chase originated in Buena Park, according to a California Highway Patrol spokesperson who confirmed the truck was stolen and driven by a lone male occupant.
Sky5 initially caught up with the pursuit a little after 5 a.m. as the U-Haul was on the 605 Freeway in Whittier.
The driver was being followed by CHP units as the truck transitioned to the westbound 60 Freeway in El Monte about 5:15 a.m. Aerial video from Sky5 showed a trailer sparking behind the truck, which appeared to be traveling at about 60 or 70 mph.
The driver entered the northbound 5 Freeway, exited in the Los Feliz area, then headed southbound again. He eventually got onto the 605 Freeway in Downey, then the eastbound 91 Freeway in Cerritos.
The truck appeared to run over a spike strip on the 91 just before 6:15 a.m. and then exited the freeway on Euclid Street — with two flat front tires. The tires began smoking as the driver continued to flee from authorities, getting back on the westbound 91 Freeway.
The vehicle slowed down to about 10 mph due to the flat tires, but the driver continued on, at one point appearing to be using his cellphone.
Then a fire ignited on the passenger side wheel, and the flames appeared to be growing and spreading under the truck.
Still burning, the vehicle exited the freeway a short time later on Bellflower Boulevard in Bellflower. The driver jumped out of the truck and fled on foot as smoke filled the cabin of the vehicle.
Video showed the driver hop over several fences in an effort to evade authorities. He had some type of bag with him that he also threw over the fences and picked up as he fled.
Authorities set up a perimeter around an alley the man ran into. No longer carrying the bag, he tried to walk out of the area but was approached and surrendered to Los Angeles County deputies without incident.
Meanwhile, the cab of the U-Haul truck was engulfed in flames. Firefighters arrived and put it out.
Authorities say the man — from Orange County — is suspected of stealing three vehicles: the U-Haul, the trailer and a motorcycle found inside the U-Haul.
“He’s not a young teenage kid anymore. He’s 47 years old. He should know what these consequences are,” CHP spokesperson Marcos Iñiguez said.
Iñiguez was also surprised to see the suspect laugh as he was being taken away.
“For them to laugh as you’re taking them away, it’s almost like they feel like it’s a slap on the wrist,” he said.
Iñiguez said investigators have at least four victims to follow up with in connection with the U-Haul and all of the stolen property it contained.