An 18-year-old produce clerk had the ride of his life Saturday when he chased two suspected shoplifters from a Fullerton market and jumped into the bed of their fleeing pickup truck, only to find out they weren't about to surrender.
Steve Brown, a 6-foot, 1-inch, 175-pound football player at Orange Coast College, managed to slash the truck's tire with the blade of his box cutter, helping to bring the chase to an end after traveling through four cities.
Rubin C. Castillo, 32, of Santa Ana was booked on suspicion of burglary, conspiracy and kidnaping, Fullerton Police Lt. Bob Bray said. A truckload of other suspects escaped.
13 Bottles of Scotch Whisky
The incident began when two men pushed a shopping cart with 13 bottles of Scotch whisky out the market's door without paying, according to police, Brown and Bob Kemp, the night manager of Albertson's market at 1845 W. Orangethorpe Avenue.
"Now that I think of it, it was kind of dangerous to jump in the back of the truck," Brown said later.
As they rode off together, Brown said he asked the men in the truck to just give back the stolen liquor and let him out. They refused.
"I was trying to get up and he (the driver) was swerving trying to make me sit down," Brown said.
Finally, Brown decided to jump.
"I was hanging onto the tailgate and I just rolled off. . . . This couple following us from the store pulled over and I jumped in their car." Meanwhile, Kemp and assistant store manager Paul Wilkerson passed in another car, and the chase continued.
"Normally . . . we don't want to let people walk out the door with products, but we're not going to get crazy with chasing people," Kemp said.
'Seemed Like a Good Idea'
"But it escalated," he added. "Usually we don't chase people in cars, but he had one of my employees, so we were worried. It seemed like a good idea at the time."
Kemp said he cornered the truck at a left turn lane near Manchester Boulevard and Stanton Avenue in Buena Park, where Wilkerson approached the truck's driver.
"Paul (Wilkerson) got out of the truck and said give us the stuff back," Kemp recalled. "The driver got out on the running board and said: 'Do you want a bullet through your head?' Paul said, 'See ya.' "
Wilkerson returned to Kemp and they backed up their car in deference to the threat. The truck pulled away again. The car carrying Brown drove by, continuing the chase. Kemp and Wilkerson decided to follow, too.
At least twice, the fleeing truck struck other vehicles and drove off, the pursuers and police said. After a collision in which several of the stolen liquor bottles apparently were broken, the truck's passengers fled on foot but the driver remained in the vehicle.
Scotch Pouring From Truck
"There was Scotch pouring out of the truck (bed)," Kemp said.
The truck, now carrying only the driver, continued to elude its pursuers, running numerous red lights, Brown and Kemp said.
When the truck stopped once, Brown said he "jumped out of the car . . . took my box cutter and slashed his front left tire."
Finally, the suspect's truck, battered by numerous collisions and hobbling along on a flat tire, came to a halt when its engine failed at Chapman Avenue and West Street in Garden Grove. There, the two cars carrying Albertson's employees arrived and held the truck driver, who as it turned out had no gun. Garden Grove Police Officer Erik Mansoor, responding to a resident's complaint about a truck driving recklessly, came a few minutes later.
"It took them (police) about 45 minutes to an hour to figure out what was going on," Brown said.
"It was pretty weird, I'll tell you that," Kemp said. "It was the weirdest thing I've ever done."