MONTEBELLO (AP) — A gunman leading police on a wild chase east of Los Angeles smashed into cars, veered into oncoming traffic, stole a vehicle at gunpoint and ran down a crowded street before officers shot and wounded him.
Authorities opened fire as the man appeared to be trying to steal another car, police spokeswoman Rosario Herrera said. Officers handcuffed the wounded suspect, and he was taken to a hospital in an ambulance, she said.
Police on Tuesday identified him as Aaron Lorta, a 29-year-old gang member with a long criminal history. He remained hospitalized in stable condition and was interviewed by detectives, according to Officer Liliana Preciado. He could face charges including carjacking, she said.
A woman whose car was stolen at gunpoint on live TV was not hurt but was deeply shaken after the incident.
“He just came up to me and pointed the gun at me and told me to get out of my car,” Elizabeth Yarahuan, 22, told KABC-TV as she tried to fight back tears.
“I unbuckled myself, and I opened the door and ran out. It was horrible. I don’t wish that on nobody.”
The chase began about 5 p.m. with officers answering a report of a possible stolen car east of downtown, police said.
The Toyota sped through South Gate and other cities southeast of Los Angeles. The car zoomed through traffic, sometimes going the wrong way, and struck vehicles at least four times before it could not keep driving.
The man in a white T-shirt jumped out and tried to steal another car. As television news helicopters hovered overhead, he pulled what appeared to be a gun, stole Yarahuan’s car and took off.
He raced along Interstate 710 and state Route 60 with at least eight patrol cars in pursuit.
The car veered onto an off-ramp and then a Montebello street, where it became wedged between two other vehicles in traffic.
The man jumped out and pulled open a door on a stopped SUV as police chased him. He tried to stop another car, but it took off before officers opened fire.
No officers were hurt.
Driver Martha Duron said she was fine after her car was sideswiped, but it could easily have been different.
“If he would’ve hit me hard, in the front, I would’ve been gone,” she told KCAL-TV. “He was going so fast.”