Monday, September 21, 1987
Truck flips onto cruiser in police chase
By Tom Burgess
A pickup confronted by five police cars traveling the wrong way on a freeway transition road swerved and rolled on top of a National City police car just before dawn yesterday, the California Highway Patrol reported.
Investigators said the pickup driver, who received moderate injuries, was moving from State 94 to Interstate 5 when he found himself in the middle of a police chase.
Michael G. Powell, 43, of Spring Valley, swerved his pickup, skidded, clipped the bumper of the lead police car, hit a center divider, then rolled and landed right-side up on top of a second police car.
No one was seriously hurt, but the object of the police chase - a car thief suspect - escaped onto another I-5 onramp at F Street, driving on three wheels.
Arrested later by San Diego police on suspicion of being the driver of the fleeing car was David Andre Mitchell, 20 of San Diego. He was apprehended on foot as he walked along Edgemont Street, near 30th Street, in San Diego.
The Crash, however, is under investigation by the CHP.
"We really have to check this one," said Sgt. Richard Mehrtens, a CHP spokesman in San Diego. "We have to find whether there was sufficient justification to warrant five police cars traveling on a high-speed freeway transition road in the wrong direction to chase a car thief.
National City and Chula Vista police indicated they also will investigate the incident, which caused injuries to one police officer.
Three National City police vehicles led two Chula Vista patrol cars in the case up the one-way connector in pursuit of the fleeing car, the CHP said.
Chula Vista police said Mitchell is being held on suspicion of car theft, strong-arm robbery and failure to yield.
An officer not involved in the chase said, "National City police were trying to catch a bad guy, but they screwed this one up."
In the lead was National City police officer Coley Davis, whose bumper was ripped off by Powell's truck as Powell swerved to avoid a head-on collision, according to the CHP's Mehrtens. Behind Davis was another National City Police officer, Sgt. Don Berstler, who drove the patrol car that Powell's truck landed on. Berstler was treated for minor injuries at the Paradise Valley Hospital.
"They shouldn't have been there. It was barely light," said Powell, who was driving to his Naval Reserve job. Powell suffered a cut on his head that required seven stitches and bruises on his shoulder. Treated and released by a naval medical clinic at the 32nd Street Naval Station, he was excused from his reserve drill yesterday.
Powell had decided to drive early to his Naval Reserve job on the submarine repair ship McKee, based at Point Loma. "Sometimes it's hard getting on base," he said.
In his full-time civilian occupation, Powell operates Mike's Mobile Repair, a vehicle-repair service, from his 1970 Ford pickup - which Powell said was a "total loss" after the crash.
As Powell was preparing to leave for work, the beginning of his drama unfolded in Chula Vista.
At 5:55 a.m., said Chula Vista police Lt. Don Partch, a man allegedly got into a red pickup parked in a bank parking lot on Third Avenue.
The truck's owner, M.J. Kovar of Chula Vista, who had stopped to use the bank's 24-hours automatic teller machine, demanded that the intruder get out of his truck.
Instead the intruder struck Koyar and sped away, according to a Chula Vista police report.
Seconds later, Chula Vista police officer Jerry Hoffmeyer drove up and Kovar sent him after his vehicle. Chula Vista officer Mike Cuellar followed Hoffmeyer.
Both patrol cars chased the vehicle into National City police officer Davis and two other units to the lead in the pursuit, passing Hoffmeyer and Cueller.
Past 28th Street the stolen pickup blew a tire and but continued on grinding the steel rim down and sending a shower of sparks into the early morning haze. "Then he spun around and stopped on the interstate," said Mehrtens.
Police, on foot and in patrol cars, slowly approached the driver of the stolen truck, who appeared ready to surrender. Suddenly the pickup screeched toward the police, and officers leaped away from the truck.
The pickup headed down the wrong way into the State 94 connector, with police pursuing. The driver sped down the F Street onramp, while the police, who apparently didn't see him exit, continued onto State 94, where they met Powell, driving his pickup.
As he rounded the connector that leads to northbound I-5, Powell said, he was traveling at 55 mph, the legal speed.
In the gray of early dawn, he said, "all I could see were police car lights, it looked like 1,000 of them. They should use their radio for high speed chases. That's what a radio is for, to call in other units."
He said he wants National City police to replace his truck.