A patient on his way to Temecula Valley Hospital allegedly got out of his restraints and stole an ambulance Sunday, leading police on a pursuit on the 15 Freeway from the Lake Elsinore area before a foot-chase finish in Hesperia, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The ambulance driver reported the stolen vehicle on a 911 call around 3:35 p.m. Investigators said the man broke free from his restraints on the way to Temecula Valley Hospital, then got into a fight with a paramedic in the back of the ambulance.
When the driver pulled over to help, the patient commandeered the ambulance, according to investigators.
The suspect promptly made a stop at a gas station for cigarettes. Aylin Brambila was working inside the AM/PM when the man cut to the front of a line to pay.
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"He started shaking a little, getting a little panicked, I guess," said Brambila. "That's when he was like, 'I'm just going to get this, and I'm going to leave.'
"Then he gets in an ambulance, doesn't close the door properly and just drives off."
Security camera video from the store showed the shirtless driver get out of the ambulance and open the rear doors before putting on pants in the parking lot. He can be seen buying cigarettes on video from cameras inside the store.
Video also showed the man driving off in the ambulance as a customer at a fuel pump points out the ambulance to officers.
Eliana Moreno and Newschopper Bravo were over the police pursuit at approximately 4:15 p.m on the 15 Freeway northbound. A short time later, the vehicle passed the 210 Freeway and Rancho Cucamonga area, but continued northbound through the Cajon Pass.
The pursuit concluded near the intersection of Mesa Street and Mariposa Road on the 15 Freeway in Hesperia when the driver abruptly pulled over without putting the vehicle in park. The ambulance rolled to a stop in the freeway median.
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A shirtless and shoeless man exited the ambulance and proceeded to run into a field with an officer chasing on foot. After a lengthy foot pursuit in which both the suspect and the chasing officer appeared to be out of breath and began walking at times, an officer got out of a CHP helicopter that landed in the field and helped make the arrest.
Rick Montanez contributed to this story.