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Car Snatched From Torrance Dealership : Impromptu 'Test Ride' Ends in Arrest

October 08, 1987|SHERYL STOLBERG | Times Staff Writer

The brand-new, black Suzuki Samurai had been on the dealer's lot at Torrance Suzuki for just three weeks when, police say, it caught the eye of a young man from Hawthorne.

Alas, the $8,000 car with the black-and-white striped convertible top had already been sold. Its new owner was on the way to pick it up Monday afternoon.

But the young man was apparently determined to have it.

And so, according to Torrance Police Sgt. Ron Traber, when a saleswoman left the room, the man snatched three color-coded keys from their hooks, "took the one that had the black designation, stuck it in the ignition, found that it fit, fired that little thing up and drove off down the street while some of the employees were watching."

Steve Honig, sales manager for the dealership at 3035 Pacific Coast Highway, saw the man drive away. He called police, who dispatched two motorcycle officers to track down the car.

The officers spotted the car at Hawthorne Boulevard and Carson Street shortly after Honig's call came in at 5:20 p.m. They flipped on their sirens as the car made a left onto Carson, but the driver made another left into a parking lot and led the officers on a short chase before abandoning the Samurai and hopping a cement-block wall at the rear of a residential neighborhood on Ocean Avenue.

Unable to find him, police called their K-9 squad, which sniffed the man out from between a toolshed and a piece of plywood in the backyard of a home in the 21800 block of Ocean Avenue. Police identified him as Victor Leon, 21, of 4012 West 41st St. in Hawthorne, and charged him with grand theft of an auto, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, evading arrest and commercial burglary.

As for the black Samurai, it was delivered to its owner on Tuesday.

And the Suzuki dealership, Honig says, is now keeping its car keys in a desk.

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