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Davis' Convoy Clocked at 94 MPH

August 09, 2003|Carl Ingram | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — A motorcade driving Gov. Gray Davis to Los Angeles was clocked going 94 mph by a California Highway Patrol officer who pursued the cars for five miles until members of the governor's security detail identified themselves, sources said Friday.

The chase occurred Aug. 2 on a two-lane portion of California 46 in San Luis Obispo County known as "Blood Alley," because at least 29 people have died after traffic accidents there since 1998. Movie actor James Dean was killed on the same stretch in 1955.

A spokesman for Davis refused to comment on the incident, referring questions to Highway Patrol Commissioner D.O. "Spike" Helmick.

Helmick said he would not discuss issues relating to the governor's security. But he said that he had formally reprimanded an unidentified CHP sergeant in charge of the motorcade because traffic laws had been broken. He said the motorcade had been carrying a "dignitary" but would not elaborate. Sources said the passenger was Davis.

CHP officials said motorcade officers must obey traffic laws, just like any other motorist, unless there is an emergency.

While CHP spokesman Tom Marshall would not confirm that the governor had been in the motorcade, he did provide a general description of the chase.

Marshall said a CHP officer had been traveling westbound on the highway when he was passed by the oncoming motorcade of two unmarked cars going at high speed. The officer made a U-turn and started the pursuit with his lights flashing. He clocked the motorcade at 94 mph on radar.

The posted speed limit is 55 mph and, in an attempt to curb accidents, traffic fines are doubled for violations along the highway.

At first, members of the motorcade appeared to ignore the officer. Marshall said that, during the pursuit, the passenger appeared to be "on the cell phone, asleep or something."

The pursuing officer radioed a dispatcher with the license plate number of one car to learn whether it might have been involved in a crime, Marshall said.

Then one of the CHP officers in the motorcade either "heard the radio call or saw the red lights" and contacted the dispatcher, Marshall said. The officer identified himself as a member of the dignitary protection detail.

The motorcade officer asked the pursuing patrolman to "back off," Marshall said. But before he did so, the pursuing officer ordered the motorcade drivers to turn on the amber caution lights on their vehicles so he could verify their identities. The pursuit ended and the motorcade continued on.

Helmick said Davis had attended a political function in Monterey that day and planned to fly to Los Angeles. From there he was scheduled to fly Sunday to Chicago. But there was a problem with Davis' airplane, and he could not take off, Helmick said, and it was decided that Davis would go to Los Angeles by motorcade.

Helmick said his reprimand for the sergeant was the mildest form of discipline he could give. He said the other CHP officers were not punished.

Officials for Davis' recall campaign organization, which was involved in the Monterey event, did not return calls seeking comment.

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