GORMAN — A paroled convict who allegedly stole a van at gunpoint and was later shot and critically wounded by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies during a confrontation on the Golden State Freeway could face charges in two counties over the episode, officials said Sunday.
Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Irma Becerra said the suspect, Steve L. Yandrich, 28, of Lakewood, was shot at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday after he allegedly brandished a gun at five deputies from the Santa Clarita Valley sheriff's station and one California Highway Patrol officer.
Sgt. Dennis Smithson of the Kern County Sheriff's Department said the incident began when Yandrich allegedly took the van at gunpoint from a driver who had been getting gas at a Texaco station just off the freeway on Frazier Mountain Park Road, in Kern County. The driver was not injured, Smithson said.
The suspect then drove onto the Golden State Freeway and headed south into Los Angeles County. Kern County deputies alerted both CHP officers and Santa Clarita Valley deputies.
After crashing the van into the center divider about two miles north of the Hungry Valley Road off-ramp, the suspect began walking south along the divider but ran across the lanes to the southbound shoulder prior to the shooting, Becerra said. She said the suspect was holding a handgun when deputies arrived.
"He was ordered to drop his weapon. But instead he pointed it at the sheriff's deputy in the patrol car closest to him," Becerra said.
CHP officers closed all of the freeway's southbound lanes and two of its five northbound lanes near Gorman from 10:45 p.m. Saturday, just after the shooting, until after 3 a.m. Sunday. Southbound traffic was diverted to nearby California 138. One southbound freeway lane remained closed until about 5:40 a.m. Sunday, a CHP spokesman said.
Deputies said Yandrich was taken by helicopter to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Valencia, where he underwent surgery. A hospital spokeswoman said he suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was in critical condition Sunday night. Deputies said they did not know how many times Yandrich was shot or which of the officers had fired. They also did not know if Yandrich had fired his gun, which was recovered at the scene.
Kern County sheriff's deputies said Yandrich could face robbery and auto theft charges there for allegedly stealing the van in Lebec, just north of the Los Angeles County line. And L.A. County deputies said the suspect would be booked for attempted murder of a peace officer over the freeway confrontation to the south near Gorman.
If Yandrich survives, sheriff's deputies said he will be transferred to the jail ward at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. He was being held without bail because he is a parolee. Neither Los Angeles County nor Kern County deputies on Sunday could provide details of his prison record.