SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — A driver who led authorities on a 100-mph freeway chase was struck by gunfire from a San Bernardino County sheriff’s helicopter before dying, the agency confirmed Saturday.
However, the official cause of death will await an autopsy, a Sheriff’s Department statement said. It didn’t indicate how many times the driver was wounded.
Friday’s shooting was the seventh from a sheriff’s helicopter since the mid-1980s, when deputies began receiving regular training in using weapons from the air, spokeswoman Jodi Miller said.
The last such incident occurred in 2001 in Apple Valley, she said, but did not immediately have details.
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Friday’s chase began in Devore, east of Los Angeles, when deputies tried to pull over a man believed to have committed a home invasion robbery there a day earlier, authorities said.
The beige Chevrolet Tahoe instead led deputies on an afternoon chase through neighboring cities at 100 mph or more. The SUV blew through stop signs and red lights, narrowly missed pedestrians and then began heading the wrong way on northbound Interstate 215, according to the sheriff’s statement.
In Muscoy, a deputy opened fire from a helicopter, hitting the SUV several times and wounding the driver, who jumped out of the moving car and ran a few yards before collapsing and dying on the side of the roadway, authorities said.
His name wasn’t immediately released.
The SUV, meanwhile, kept moving and crashed head-on into a Dodge Durango. A man and a 13-year-old boy were treated at a hospital and released but a woman remains hospitalized, the statement said.
She is “recovering from her injuries,” the statement said.
The northbound freeway lanes were closed all night, backing up traffic for miles. The lanes reopened around 7:30 a.m. Saturday.
While helicopter shootings are rare, deputies who fly for the department “train from the air every 90 days at a minimum,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller said.