A high-speed police chase through suburban Los Angeles County on Wednesday ended with a police officer kicking a suspect in the head or neck after the man gave up and laid down.
Video from TV news helicopters showed the driver speed the wrong way down a street in an eastern area of the county. He then crashed into an oncoming vehicle, got out of the car and ran into a residential back yard. Surrounded by high garden walls and apparently realizing he had nowhere to go, the suspect got face down on the grass with his arms outstretched.
Moments later, an El Monte Police Department officer ran up to the suspect and gave him one sharp kick to the head or neck. The scene was broadcast by KNBC-TV and KTTV. A second officer arrived soon after and used what appeared to be his baton or a flashlight to deliver several blows to the suspect’s side.
After the suspect was handcuffed, the officer who kicked him high-fived a colleague who was tending to a police dog.
El Monte police Chief Tom Armstrong said he had not yet seen the video and could not comment.
“Before coming to any conclusion, I want to look at all the facts,” Armstrong said. “I don’t know what was in the mind of the officer.”
Police identified the driver as Richard Rodriguez, 23, of El Monte. He was on parole and is a member of an El Monte street gang, Lt. Chuck Carlson said. He was booked for parole violation and for investigation of felony evading and obstructing a police officer in the performance of his duties. He was being held in the El Monte jail before being transferred to a county jail.
The foot pursuit came at the culmination of a high-speed car chase that lasted more than 30 minutes and saw the suspect lead a chaotic drive through El Monte, Whittier and other parts of eastern Los Angeles County.
On several occasions, the car sped through intersections without stopping and at one point drove along a short stretch of sidewalk when it was hemmed in at a junction.
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Carlson said the occupants of the car flashed gang signs at pursuing officers.
The chase started in El Monte around 1:30 p.m. after the driver failed to stop for an officer, Carlson said.
The sedan drove away at speeds of up to 80 mph in a 30 mph zone.
The car had two passengers, Carlson said, and someone threw items from the car on a freeway onramp. Officers were unable to locate the jettisoned objects.
Toward the end of the chase, the car briefly was forced to stop in traffic, at which point one passenger leaped out. He was immediately detained.
The car went on to speed the wrong way down a three-lane street. It spun out of control after swerving to avoid an oncoming car, then crashed into another vehicle. At that point, Rodriguez got out and ran from officers. The car’s remaining passenger was arrested, Carlson said.
No one was seriously injured, he said.
Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman at the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, had not seen the video and did not know if her office would conduct an independent review.
The kick came during a hectic day of police pursuits, with two other dramatic chases unfolding along Southern California freeways and streets in a period of just five hours.
The first chase occurred around 9 a.m. when undercover Los Angeles Police Department officers briefly followed a pickup truck on the Interstate 10 west of downtown Los Angeles, Officer Karen Rayner said. Officers briefly shut down the eastbound freeway lanes during the morning commuter rush.
Three suspects were arrested at gunpoint, Rayner said. The undercover agents had not provided her with additional information.
Around 12:20 p.m., LAPD officers responded to reports of a suspect fleeing the location of a shooting. Rayner said a man had shot a woman in her 20s several times. Rayner said the woman died at a hospital at 12:50 p.m.
The suspect fled in a red pickup truck, which was seen weaving in and out of traffic at speeds up to 100 mph on an eastbound freeway to the Riverside County city of Corona, where the driver eventually surrendered.