Next week is both National Transportation Week and National Police Week. In honor of these two observances near and dear to our auto-obsessed hearts, here are five incidents involving insane drivers and the police who brought them to justice.
If At First You Don’t Succeed
In Denver, Colorado, police chased a carjacker for about 75 miles as he speed through five counties (and several jurisdictions) in a series of three cars. The Grand Theft Auto-style event started on March 12, 2014, when a southern Denver resident (with a lengthy criminal history) stole a red SUV from a gas station.
Police followed the carjacker southbound on I-25, reaching 80mph, before he drove through a parking lot, jumped the curb, and headed east–the wrong way–on I-76. After about a half-hour, he cut off and then carjacked a gold minivan, speeding off again with police in pursuit.
The driver pretended to get in an accident with a silver Lexus, forced the driver from the car, and drove off again. He eventually crashed the car in Douglas County. After a short foot chase, during which he lost his jacket and tried to steal a few additional cars, he surrendered to police.
Unexpected fireworks rocked West Hollywood, CA, on the Fourth of July, 2014, when a Tesla Model S split in half and burst into flame after a ten-mile chase.
Police responding to reports of the stolen vehicle chased the driver through the streets of West Hollywood, with the Tesla reaching speeds up to 100mph. The pursuit ended after the car crashed into a lamp post and split in two. The front half of the Tesla ended up wedged in the entrance of Congregation Kol Ami synagogue, while the other half of the luxury electric car landed on top of another car and burst into flames.
Things got real on the streets of Van Nuys, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, California, on December 1, 2014. The driver of a stolen BMW was speeding eastbound on Sherman Way at 90mph before he crashed into the back of another vehicle. After crashing, the driver got out of the car, ran across the street and started riding a skateboard down Valjean Avenue.
That was when reality TV star Lou Pizarro drove onto the scene in a red pick-up truck, the same one used on his show, “Operation Repo.” As the suspect tried to cross the street, Pizarro pulled in front of him, forcing the fleeing carjacker to stop and go around the back of the truck. As the suspect cut the corner and turned down the next block, Pizarro followed, driving onto the sidewalk and blocking the suspect’s path between a fence and a tree, allowing police on foot to catch him. “It was just instinct just to block the guy off, slow him down a little bit,” said the “Operation Repo” star. Ironically, his TV show was about recovering cars.
Big Rig Road Trip
Our top truck-on-the run tore up highway miles rather than speed. The driver of a stolen semi towing an empty flatbed trailer led police on a five hour “long follow.” The average-speed chase covered 300 miles across southwestern Ontario along some of North America’s busiest highways, including the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) which links Toronto with the Niagara Peninsula and Buffalo, New York.
The truck was stolen from a Husky truck stop on York Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Because the big rig wasn’t exceeding highway speeds, police followed, but didn’t try to pull over the stolen semi, although they did block him from crossing the border into the U.S. Twelve cruisers and a police helicopter trailed the trailer until it pulled over near the Burlington Skyway on the QEW, where the driver surrendered.
Almost 21 years ago, NFL Hall-of-Famer O.J. Simpson led police on the most infamous car chase of our time. Arguably, our national obsession with car chases began here, as 95 million Americans sat glued to newscasts during the 1994 NBA Finals and hundreds of Southern Californian spectators took to the streets.
After murder charges were filed against Simpson, on June 17, 1994, the celebrity disappeared. Around 6pm, police located Simpson on the Santa Anna Freeway in Orange County in a white Ford Bronco, driven by his friend and former teammate, Al Cowlings.
When media began broadcasting the news and location, people took to the streets in droves, greatly interfering with police pursuit and activity on the roads, and later at Simpson’s home.
After leading police on a 60-mile, slow-speed chase along the Los Angeles Highways, the Bronco exited the expressway and began heading west on Sunset Boulevard, speeding and blowing red lights, before stopping in the driveway of Simpson’s home in Brentwood.
LAPD Special Weapons and Tactics team and negotiators eventually coaxed Simpson out of the vehicle and took him into custody.
Behind the Scenes
Beginning May 16, 1957, Congress designated the third Friday of May each year as National Defense Transportation Day. In 1962, Congress extended the designation to the whole week as National Transportation Week.
In 1962, May 15 was designated Peace Officers Memorial Day by President John F. Kennedy. Police Week follows during the week surrounding that date. Learn about National Police Week at www.policeweek.org.