A gym teacher from Southeast Middle School wanted on suspicion of child abuse told police he was suicidal before leading officers on a chase across southeast LA that ended with his vehicle careening down an embankment and into a patio area outside a Palos Verdes building, according to police.
The driver -- later identified as 51-year-old Kip Richard Arnold -- was trapped inside the pickup, which was flipped sideways next to the office building, according to police. He was extricated by firefighter-rescue team members and transported in an ambulance.
"He was able to answer some basic questions," Captain Phil Schneider of the L.A. County Fire Department said. "He was alert."
According to a statement from school officials, the Los Angeles Unified School District is cooperating with the ongoing investigation.
"Officials of the (LAUSD) have been notified by the Bell Police Department of the arrest of Kip Arnold, a physical education teacher at Southeast Middle School, on suspicion of lewd behavior with a former student, and possibly additional victims.
"He has been with the District eight years. Past assignments include Nimitz Middle School, Gage Middle School and Orchard Academies 2B," according to the LAUSD statement.
Earlier in the day, Bell officers were keeping Arnold under surveillance. He was wanted on suspicion of child abuse allegedly involving a 16-year-old girl, according to police.
When the man left his Lakewood residence in his car, officers initiated a traffic stop. That's when he told officers he was suicidal. He then sped off, police said.
The pursuit wound through the Bell area to the 405 and 110 freeways before entering the Torrance area, where an officer used the Pursuit Intervention Technique -- PIT maneuver -- on a surface street. The pickup crashed into the side of a semi-trailer truck, but the driver continued fleeing officers.
The driver headed uphill onto the Palos Verdes Peninsula, then crashed through a white three-rail fence and down an embankment off Crenshaw Boulevard. The vehicle landed next to a commercial building near Indian Peak Road.
The crash occurred just feet from the office headquarters of a food distribution company called Dotta Foods, where employees would normally be outside in the area grilling food for lunch, according to Katia Francesconi, a sales and marketing employee with the business.
"They were lucky," Francesconi said of her coworkers.
The vehicle collided with the company's barbecue and some chairs, destroying them, before crashing into a tree that stopped the truck from hitting cars parked nearby.
View Location of pursuit-ending crash in a larger map