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Suspect inhales nitrous oxide at end of bizarre chase in Panorama City

A suspect is seen inhaling nitrous oxide from balloons in his vehicle at the end of a short pursuit in Panorama City on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013.
February 1, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
A suspect inhaling nitrous oxide from balloons at the end of a bizarre pursuit and standoff has been taken into custody.

Authorities say the short pursuit of the Honda Accord began in the Panorama City area just before 11 a.m. because of erratic driving. Police believe the suspect, identified as Jorge Sanchez, was driving under the influence of nitrous oxide.

"Nitrous oxide is also known as laughing gas, and it's used as a medical gas sometimes for short procedure. It makes you tired, sedated, takes away the pain, kind of knocks you out," Dr. Stephen Jones of Northridge Hospital said.

Officers used spike strips to stop the vehicle in the area of Cantaloupe Avenue and Ashworth Street. The 22-year-old would not get out of the vehicle, and instead, he was seen inhaling nitrous oxide from balloons that he refilled from a tank in the passenger seat.

Police shot bean bags into the vehicle and broke a side window, dragging Sanchez out of the car at about 11:15 a.m. Police say a medical examination is being arranged for the man.

Jones says recreational use of nitrous oxide can be very dangerous.

"During this period of time, all of the oxygen that his body needs is being pushed out of his body, and when it's all replaced by nitrous, you have nothing left for your brain and your heart and your lungs, and it could cause a heart attack or stroke or serious problem," Jones said.

Doctors say they want the public to understand that chronic use of nitrous oxide can lead to permanent brain damage.

The suspect's father, who was at the scene, said his son has had an issue with drugs in the past. Sanchez is the father of a 2-year-old, according to the father.


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