One person was taken into custody following a pursuit of a stolen hearse that ended in a crash on the 110 Freeway in South Los Angeles, prompting the closure of southbound lanes Thursday morning, authorities said.
The body that was inside the hearse when it was stolen from outside a church in the Pasadena area Wednesday was found in the back of the vehicle after it crashed the next morning, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Benjamin Grubb told KTLA.
A good samaritan noticed the black SUV, called police and started following it at about 7:35 a.m. in the area of Figueroa and 23rd streets, the Los Angeles Police Department said.
Officers responded and tried to stop the SUV, but the driver didn’t yield and they started chasing the vehicle before it crashed on the 110 Freeway near the Vermont Square neighborhood.
Aerial video from Sky5 showed a damaged Lincoln Navigator with the same license plate as the one stolen from outside a church in East Pasadena the night before.
A casket was visible in the back of the vehicle, video showed.
“The deceased individual’s remains— they were undisturbed besides, perhaps, some impact from the traffic collision,” Grubb said.
The black Lincoln Navigator was carrying a casket with a body inside when it was taken from Saint Anthony Greek Orthodox Church at 778 S. Rosemead Blvd. around 8 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
“It’s unfortunate that the family is put through further trauma in having to deal with this situation unfolding as it has,” Grubb said.
There were initially two bodies in the vehicle when it arrived at the church, but the driver left the keys in the ignition while taking one inside. The driver came back out to get the other body and discovered that the Navigator was gone, officials said.
“To hear that somebody would have the audacity to do that in this quiet area is, kind of, nerve-wracking,” said Michael Seeger, who lives nearby.
Jaimi Harrison, another resident who lives near the church, said she couldn’t believe what had happened.
“That’s just reprehensible,” Harrison said. “To put the family through this— I can’t even imagine. It’s just terrible.”
Authorities said the hearse was later removed from the scene and impounded while the body was taken to a mortuary.
No other details were provided about the person in custody, and it’s unknown whether anyone was injured in the collision or how many vehicles were involved.