SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – A nearly 13-hour ordeal finally came to an end Thursday morning when a suspect was captured following a dangerous pursuit with a stolen big rig which wound its way across the Southland, before culminating in a standoff on a major Santa Ana freeway.
The six-hour standoff on the southbound 55 Freeway near MacArthur Boulevard finally came to an end around 8:35 a.m. The 22-year-old male driver, Bryan Santana of Los Angeles, had holed himself up in the cab of the big-rig in a middle lane on the freeway.
"There was some type of communication, we convinced him to come out, he came out peacefully, and he was taken into custody," Officer Florentino Olivera, a California Highway Patrol spokesperson, told reporters.
The southbound 55 Freeway was shut down during the standoff, backing up traffic for miles and leaving hundreds of drivers stranded for hours. It has since fully reopened.
"I've been stuck here since 2:30 in the morning, boss. It's a nightmare here," commuter Eduardo Onofre said.
The more than six-hour chase started in East Los Angeles, made its way northwest into Ventura County, and back south into Commerce and down into Orange County. During the chase, the truck blew out all its tires on multiple spike strips, but the driver somehow managed to keep going.
The incident began a little after 8 p.m. Wednesday when an employee from Individual FoodService in the city of Bell, just off the 5 Freeway and Indiana Street, reported that a big-rig had been stolen from the company yard. CHP officers responded and a pursuit ensued.
The rig was stolen with about half-a-tank of fuel, according to CHP. The driver led authorities through several cities in the San Fernando Valley, including Burbank and Woodland Hills.
The chase continued onto the northbound 5 Freeway near Sun Valley before the big rig merged onto the westbound 118 Freeway.
After learning the trailer was empty, authorities began using spike strips to puncture the rig's tires. After the tires punctured, the driver turned on the emergency lights as sparks flew out from under the trailer. However, the truck continued on the westbound 118 Freeway without front tires as smoke appeared below it.
The chase then made its way onto the southbound 23 Freeway, where police deployed another set of spike strips right before the semi entered the westbound 101 Freeway.
Even though the big rig lost several tires in the front and back of the vehicle, it continued on, eventually making its way onto the southbound 5 Freeway.
Police attempted to disable the vehicle with a third spike strip which proceeded to get stuck underneath the cab. The strips later dislodged.
Officers continued to throw spike strips, which proved to be ineffective as they wrapped around the stripped rims and dislodged before reaching other tires.
The chase eventually came to a stop at around 3 a.m. on the southbound 55 Freeway, south of MacArthur Boulevard, where the standoff ensued. CHP and Irvine police SWAT surrounded the truck for hours. No injuries were reported during the ordeal, CHP said.
The exact circumstances of the theft of the truck were unknown, as well as how Santana knew how to driver the 18-wheeler.
The 22-year-old has been booked for felony evading and stealing a vehicle. Officials with the CHP said they moved Santana from their office to the Orange County Jail.
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