Do-Gooder of Auto World Turns Into "Deadly Weapon"

Emergency lights mounted on top draw attention to the subtle little car

By Jonathan Lloyd
|  Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 3:03 PM PDT
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Five to Drive: Green Car of the Year Finalists

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TOKYO - MAY 18: Toyota Motor Corporation's third-generation Prius is on display during a press conference at Mega Web on May 18, 2009 in Tokyo, Japan. The third-generation Prius is on sale now in Japan at the price of 2,050,000 Japanese yen (22,000 U.S. dollars), with its new hybrid system, the third-generation Prius achieve a world-leading fuel efficiency of 38.0km/l. (Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)

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One of the slogans for the third-generation Toyota Prius hybrid is, "Harmony between man, nature and machine."

That harmony turned into discord Tuesday night.  Authorities say a bare-breasted, tattooed man behind the wheel of Prius caused havoc during a pursuit that ended south of Santa Clarita.

This poster child for environmentally friendly hybrid vehicles was outfitted with a set of emergency lights on its roof -- not factory standard equipment. The lights were similar to those used on cars escorting big rigs that haul oversized loads.

Authorities said they did not know why the Prius was mounted with the lights.

The pursuit began after some very un-Prius behavior. According to Sgt. Rick Miler of the CHP, the driver got into a fight with a truck driver at the scales along Interstate 5 north of Santa Clarita about 1:12 p.m., then fled.

"He believed the big rigs were CHP officers, trying to take him back to  the Mexican Mafia," Miler said.

Walsh was headed south on the 5 Freeway when he finally pulled over and surrendered near the junction with the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway about 2:15  p.m., according to CHP Officer Monica Posada.    A tire-shredding spike strip was put in front of the car near Weldon Canyon, but it was unclear if the driver ran over it.

The driver, identified as 47-year-old Robert Walsh, of Lancaster, was booked for assault with a deadly weapon -- the Prius -- and held for a psychological evaluation, Miler said.

The chase was more eventful than a slow-speed pursuit involving a Prius near Carlsbad in November. In that case, an 87-year-old man was taken into custody after a pursuit that reached speeds of 35 mph.

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