Los Angeles police shot and killed the driver of a sport utility vehicle early Thursday after he led officers on a chase that ended with the man ramming into police cruisers in the skid row area of downtown.
The chase ended at 4th and San Pedro streets shortly before 6 a.m. when four police officers fired at the driver inside the SUV and killed him after he continued to push one of the cruisers sideways with an officer trapped inside, police said.
"He was pushing the car to the curb," said Capt. Blake Chow of the LAPD's Central Division. "He was trying extremely hard to harm the officers, so the pursuing officers fired, fearing for their safety."
"I haven't seen anything like this before," Chow said. "The suspect began chasing the police cars. He sped up and hit one of the [patrol] cars in the rear. He was trying to hit the police cars. . . . Clearly, something snapped in him."
Chow said police received a call about 5:15 a.m. regarding a hit-and-run at East 4th and South Alameda streets.
Maria Mendez, 43, said she and her boyfriend, Francisco Regalado, were sleeping in their 1992 Honda Civic outside a warehouse near the intersection when they were suddenly hit on the driver's side by a dark SUV.
The SUV backed up and rammed the car a second time, said Mendez, who lives in Culver City.
"I didn't know what was happening," she said. She and her boyfriend were sleeping in their car before she dropped him off for his early-morning shift as a day laborer at the warehouse.
Mendez said the driver then went south on Central Avenue, made a U-turn at 5th Street and drove toward her and her boyfriend again. By that time, Regalado had called 911.
"He must have heard the sirens because he kept going" past us, she said.
Officers stopped the SUV at Central Avenue and 5th Street, but the driver fled in the vehicle and led officers on a pursuit for about 10 minutes.
During the chase, the driver rammed into three police cars and attempted to run over pedestrians.
At one point, a police cruiser tried to spin the car to a halt by tapping its rear side, but the driver evaded the maneuver. He then rear-ended another police car before fleeing again.
The pursuit ended when the man drove the wrong way on 4th Street and crashed into a cruiser at San Pedro Street.
At least 10 police cruisers surrounded the SUV after the crash, and the driver began ramming one of the patrol cars sideways. Then the shots were fired.
Three officers were taken to the hospital; at least two of them apparently had hip and back injuries from the impact of the SUV, Chow said.
The driver had a lengthy criminal history, he said.
Times staff writers Richard Winton and Ari B. Bloomekatz contributed to this report.