A Long Beach city worker stole a tow truck Tuesday morning and eluded pursuing police for three hours, until all four tires were blown and the sparking rims had set the truck on fire, police said.
Dressed in a suit and tie, 41-year-old Atilano Magana Ochoa got out of the burning truck about 7 a.m. but ignored commands and was shot with beanbags before he was arrested, Officer David Marander said.
Ochoa, who police suspect was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, made several "religious-type remarks" about seeing Christ and having visions, Marander said.
About 12:30 a.m., Ochoa, a part-time city tow truck driver, took the $70,000 truck from the city yard at Temple Avenue and Willow Street, Marander said. Police located the truck using a tracking device installed in all city tow trucks.
Ochoa drove through foggy streets in Long Beach and surrounding cities, at times driving in circles or speeding, police said. Officers from three other agencies pursued him as he crossed city boundaries.
Spike strips were set up, but police believe Ochoa used a police scanner in the truck to avoid some of them. Eventually, strips deflated the truck's tires, but Ochoa continued to drive on the rims, which sprayed sparks until the truck ignited.
"At the end of the pursuit there were no front-wheel tires left," Marander said. "They were completely gone. It was all suspension. The whole back tires were flattened. The whole thing was in flames."
At Maine Avenue and Hill Street, Ochoa stopped, but sat in the burning truck for several minutes, police said.
When he got out, he raised his hands but ignored officers' commands, police said. An officer fired the beanbags.
Ochoa was arrested on suspicion of grand theft auto, evading police and being an impaired driver. He was booked into the Long Beach jail.