Pursuit ends in crash on I-15 offramp at Via Rancho Parkway in Escondido

Driver who led pursuit still at large

SAN DIEGO - A driver who refused to yield to the California Highway Patrol Friday on Interstate 15 near Lake Hodges led a brief high-speed pursuit that ended when he got into a four-vehicle collision in front of Westfield North County mall, after which he escaped on foot.

A CHP officer tried to pull the man over about 10 a.m. for speeding and weaving recklessly between lanes in a blue Honda Civic on the southbound side of the freeway near Del Lago Boulevard in southern Escondido.

The driver sped off, reaching speeds in excess of 100 mph before exiting onto Rancho Bernardo Road, driving underneath the I-15 bridge over the street and getting back onto the interstate, this time heading north, Highway Patrol Officer Mike Martinez said.

A short time later, the fleeing man exited at East Via Rancho Parkway -- near where the pursuit began -- and promptly lost control of the car, sending it crashing into three other vehicles.

"I was just sitting here at the light and he came from the ramp at 75 to 80 miles per hour and hit me front on," George Vaugh told 10News. "It drove my car back to the place it landed  … about 45 feet."

Vaugh told 10News the suspect, who appeared to be in his 20s or 30s, looked right at him and then jumped out of the car and ran.

According to the CHP, the suspect fled to the mall, running through the Target parking lot and up a set of stairs before reportedly going inside the JC Penney store.

Officers fanned out through the area but were unable to find him.

The occupants of the vehicles struck by the Civic -- which turned out to be stolen -- suffered only bumps, bruises and other minor injuries, Martinez said.

While 10News was at the scene, the owner of the stolen car showed up.

"That is my vehicle. It was stolen from me at the beginning of the day," Edgar Rivera told 10News.

The 21-year-old only had the car for three days and just got insurance on it. He was driving around all morning looking for it when he came around the corner and saw it sitting in the middle of the intersection, but damaged.

"I'm just trying to keep a positive attitude, figure out what's going on and what happened and I want to find out what's the deal, you know?" said Rivera.

For Vaugh, this incident was enough to get him to think about giving up driving.

"The last two accidents I've been in, I was sitting at a stoplight and got rear-ended; this third one was front-end. Geez, I may stop driving altogether," he said.


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