Driving at more than 100 m.p.h., a 25-year-old man led Fullerton police on a chase through two counties that ended early Saturday when he broadsided a pickup truck, triggering a series of collisions that killed him and two others and injured several people.
The chase began when police tried to stop a 1978 Datsun 280Z they had spotted weaving southbound on Harbor Boulevard in Fullerton, police said. When officers approached, the red sports car sped off, going west through northwest Orange County and into Los Angeles County.
After fleeing from police for eight miles, the driver ran a red light at Del Amo and Pioneer boulevards in Lakewood, just east of the 605 Freeway, at 12:20 a .m. and smashed into a Toyota pickup, which in turn hit two other cars.
Car Listed as Stolen
Fullerton police said they found three pounds of narcotics and several sets of license plates in the Datsun, which had been reported stolen last week in Fullerton.
The driver, Craig S. Saunders of Buena Park, died at the scene. Michael Griswold, 26, of Norwalk also was killed when the pickup hit his car, a Los Angeles County sheriff's spokesman said. A 34-year-old man who was a passenger in the pickup also was killed, but his name was withheld until relatives could be notified.
The driver of the pickup and a passenger in one of the other cars were seriously injuried. One was taken to Memorial Medical Center of Long Beach, and the other went to Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital of Whittier. Their names were not released, but both were in critical condition Saturday night, Los Angeles Sheriff's Deputy Richard Dinsmoor said.
A fourth driver, Inez Toland, 60, of Lakewood, suffered bruises when the spinning pickup grazed her car, Dinsmoor said. The crashes destroyed all the cars but Toland's, Dinsmoor said.
"When everything hit, it was less than half a second," said Kevin Blackwell, who said he saw the wreck from the fast-food restaurant where he works. Moments after the Datsun hit the pickup, Blackwell said, six police cars pulled up.
"Before they even looked at the other cars, they all pulled their guns and pointed them (at the Datsun)," Blackwell said.
Officers from four agencies, including Fullerton, Buena Park, La Palma and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, had joined the chase, which was directed from the air by an Anaheim police helicopter.
Police would not disclose any information about Saunders, although he reportedly rented an apartment in Buena Park. Police also did not specify the type of drugs reportedly found in the Datsun.
Times staff writer Danny Sullivan contributed to this article.