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Police shoot fleeing suspect in Laguna Beach

January 12, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Laguna Beach police officers shot a driver who was trying to get away after he crashed into several cars.A section of PCH and St. Ann's Drive were shut down to accommodate the investigation under way Tuesday morning but eventually reopened to traffic by the afternoon.

The suspect's SUV was a mangled mash from the collision. Police say they received reports of a black Mitsubishi Lancer heading northbound on PCH in Laguna Beach going very fast. There were a number of witnesses because PCH is usually very busy around 8 a.m.

Some witnesses say that the vehicle was traveling about 100 mph and switching into the southbound lanes from as far back as Dana Point. The driver collided with several vehicles in Laguna Beach.

"The car went past me between on-coming traffic, probably going 90 to 100 mph," described Rob McClain, a witness.

"We saw several cars veering to the right, and then I saw a black Mitsubishi sideways on two wheels go past me," said Kim O'Donnell, another witness.

O'Donnell was saved when the SUV in front of her car took the impact when the Mitsubishi hit it instead of her.

"I was carrying my daughter in my car on her way to school, and I'm very grateful, because he could have killed a lot of people," O'Donnell said.

With traffic stopped and other vehicles damaged, many witnesses tried to help the man in the Mitsubishi.

"When I saw him, he was like with the steering wheel tucked against his chest like this," described Maribel Van Horn, another witness.

Many witnesses said they were shocked to see what happened next.

"The paramedics and police arrive, and then within seconds of trying to help the guy, all of a sudden, you hear this high screeching sound. This fool has somehow come to consciousness, put his car in reverse, backs up and tries to flee on St. Ann's ," described Carl Lang, a witness.

"So at that point, they had no choice, and they shot him. I really didn't count more than six shots," Lang added.

"What was said back and forth, I do not know. How much was said, I do not know, but I do know that at least we tried to initiate dialogue with him," said Lt. Jason Kravetz of Laguna Beach police.

"He had no choice but to shoot the car to stop it, because if he didn't, who knows what that guy would have done?" said Susan Christensen, a witness.

The suspect remains in critical condition in the hospital. Two innocent bystanders were also injured and taken to the hospital, but they were released in stable condition.

Laguna Beach police say that they do not know why the suspect tried to flee the scene or if he was armed. The suspect's name was not released Tuesday afternoon, but police describe him as being in his mid-20s.

The Orange County District Attorney's office is investigating, which is standard procedure for any officer-involved shooting.