A 42-year-old man accused of stealing handguns fatally shot himself after authorities chased the U-Haul truck he was driving across the Inland Empire Wednesday afternoon, officials said.
The man had gone to a relative's business in the 12800 block of Joy Street in Garden Grove, where he promised to return several firearms he allegedly stole during a burglary in Fullerton in 2017, Garden Grove police said in a news release.
The family member he was returning the guns to called police to let them know what was expected to take place. The pursuit driver had been identified as a suspect in the burglary, but no arrests had been made, authorities said.
Police responded to the business around 4:50 p.m., when the relative said the man was knocking on the back door in an attempt to lure him outside.
As officers were walking up, the armed man got into a U-Haul pickup and fled. He stopped briefly when officers tried to pull him over at the intersection of Brookhurst Street and Lampson Avenue, but soon took off, police said.
Garden Grove and Anaheim police chased him down the eastbound 91 Freeway until he reached Santa Ana, where California Highway Patrol assumed control of the pursuit on the eastbound 22 Freeway, near Interstate 5. The pickup then made its way through Orange and Riverside counties, winding up on the 15 Freeway in San Bernardino County.
Sky5 was overhead as the truck made its way north on the Cajon Pass around 5:50 p.m. The truck could be seen using the left shoulder as his exclusive lane to pass traffic that was piling up.
As the chase was scaling the pass, about 3 miles south of Highway 138, CHP deployed a spike strip, causing the pickup's front left tire to blow out. The truck was trailed by smoke and shreds of rubber before it pulled over in a turnout on the freeway's right shoulder.
Almost immediately after stopping, the driver could be seen with a handgun pointed at his own neck. He shot himself, Garden Grove police confirmed.
Northbound traffic on the freeway was stalled as authorities handled the incident, and motorists could be seen backed up for miles.
Paramedics responded and transported the man to Desert Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:37 p.m. Officials have not identified him, but said he was 42.
Police said a gun safe and a semiautomatic firearm were recovered from the pickup, but they did not say whether the items were stolen. Authorities also could not confirm whether the U-Haul was stolen.
CHP is continuing to investigate the shooting.