A man driving a stolen Buick led San Bernardino sheriff's deputies on a 70-minute chase early Tuesday, ramming squad cars before a deputy shot him in Upland when he allegedly gunned his car at him, authorities said.
Cornell Lawrence Wells, 48, was listed in stable condition at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton and was expected to survive gunshot wounds to his right shoulder and forehead. Wells was shot by deputies when he allegedly tried to smash his car into a patrol car behind him and a sheriff's deputy standing in front of his vehicle.
Sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Beavers said Wells, who has recently lived in Rancho Cucamonga and Las Vegas, was shot because he was threatening the lives of deputies.
"[Wells'] vehicle had stopped after the collision, and he appeared unconscious; he was slumped over the steering wheel and was nonresponsive," Beavers said. When three deputies approached him, he suddenly put the car in reverse, she said. "As he accelerated forward, toward the deputy, the deputy feared for his life and fired."
The bloodied Wells was pulled from his vehicle and treated by emergency personnel on a sidewalk on the north side of Foothill Boulevard. His shoes and socks, a belt, a bloodied shirt and wallet were preserved as evidence at the scene.
"I had a customer at the drive-through window, and as soon as the pops of the gunshots started going off, the customer took off out of here, looking at me, like, 'This is crazy,' " said David Marouf, who was on duty at a nearby Del Taco restaurant when the chase ended.
Beavers said the incident began when a deputy from the sheriff's Rancho Cucamonga station attempted a traffic stop of Wells near 4th Street and Vineyard Avenue in Ontario at 12:49 a.m. and noticed the Buick had expired registration tags. Wells refused to stop, and moments later the deputy learned the car had been reported stolen Monday night, police said.
Wells did not exceed 50 mph during the pursuit, which weaved onto Interstate 10 and through city streets in Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario, Montclair and Upland, Beavers said. Pursuing deputies tried several times to stop Wells' car, hitting it with their patrol cars and deploying spike strips that flattened three of the car's tires, but Wells was able to regain control and ram them back, Beavers said.
During the chase, Wells allegedly was seen smoking from a glass water pipe.
"It's possible he was under the influence of drugs," Beavers said of Wells' erratic behavior during the chase.
As the car grinded along asphalt on mangled rims and brake drums, deputies rammed Wells' car and forced him to stop as he traveled west on Foothill at Benson Avenue, Beavers said.