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CHP detectives shoot, kill teen driver during street racing investigation

Los Angeles Times logo Los Angeles Times 7/5/2016 By Rosanna Xia and James Queally

A California Highway Patrol cruiser waits to lead motorist on as construction workers remove barricades on the southbound Interstate 405 freeway before it re-opened ahead of schedule following a 10-mile shutdown of the freeway for bridge work on July 17, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. © Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images A California Highway Patrol cruiser waits to lead motorist on as construction workers remove barricades on the southbound Interstate 405 freeway before it re-opened ahead of schedule following a 10-mile shutdown of the freeway for bridge work on July 17, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. LOS ANGELES — Two California Highway Patrol detectives who were part of a task force to combat illegal street racing shot and killed a teenage suspect and wounded another late Sunday night in Fullerton, officials said.

About 10:50 p.m., Fullerton police and fire officials responded to a call for assistance from on-duty CHP officers who said they were involved in a shooting in the 100 block of North Pritchard Avenue, a residential street near Fullerton Municipal Airport.

Upon arrival, police found an unmarked CHP vehicle and a red pickup truck pocked with bullet holes, said Fullerton Police Sgt. Tim Kandler.

One suspect was pronounced dead at the scene, and another was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, Kandler said.

The officers, who were part of an undercover operation in Los Angeles County and had followed the suspect into the Orange County city, opened fire when the suspect’s truck drove toward them, according to a statement issued by Fullerton police. The dead teen’s name was not immediately released.

A law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation told the Los Angeles Times the suspects collided with another vehicle before accelerating toward the CHP officers’ unmarked car. The officers were exiting their vehicle as the truck bore down on them, and they began shooting shortly before the pickup truck struck their unmarked car, the official said.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case with the media.

The CHP’s Southern Division had assigned additional officers to combat street racing over the weekend after learning several car and truck clubs from the San Francisco Bay Area had planned to come to Southern California to participate in “sideshows,” or illegal car rallies, CHP Lt. Charlie Sampson said.

The pickup truck involved in the shooting had been spotted doing burnouts, or doughnuts, at a meet-up of several different truck clubs that included nearly 80 vehicles earlier in the day, Sampson said. The location of the meet had moved from South Gate to Rosemead to the Santa Fe Springs swap meet, Sampson said.

The undercover officers summoned several CHP cruisers to break up the truck club meeting, but the driver of the pickup truck “took off” as participants began to scatter, traveling “on surface streets anywhere from 80 to 90 mph,” Sampson said.

It was not clear whether the driver knew he was being followed by the unmarked CHP car, Sampson said.

The driver who was killed was 19 years old, Sampson said. The surviving suspect is 18. Sampson would not identify the officers involved in the shooting, but he said one had been with the CHP for nearly 15 years. The other has been with the agency for six years, Sampson said.

Neither officer was injured, Fullerton police said.

Illegal street racing has drawn increased attention from law enforcement agencies in Southern California in recent months, after a spate of deaths were linked to speed contests in 2015 and 2016. In April, several police leaders met to discuss the creation of a countywide task force, spearheaded by the Los Angeles Police Department, to combat the problem.

That meeting came just days after a fiery crash on the 5 Freeway left three people dead, including the son of a lieutenant with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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