Family members who run a landscaping business in Whittier were among the carjacking victims thrust into a violent and frightening chain of events when a dangerous two-hour pursuit unfolded Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
Three vehicles, including a work truck that two brothers and their father depend on for their livelihood, were stolen during the chase that began after a man in a sedan sped away from a traffic stop more than 10 miles away in Fullerton.
The driver rammed into other cars and police vehicles at an apartment complex, where he stole a white work van. The driver sideswiped several cars in the stolen van and crashed into a parked Cadillac.
The man ran from the van into a Whittier neighborhood, where he entered the Benitez family's house.
"When I saw that he was going in the house my first reaction was, 'My mother's in the house, I've got to defend ourselves,'" said resident Andres Benitz. "I grabbed the first kitchen knife I saw and I was like, 'Bro, you've got to get out the house or I'm going to have to stab you, right now.'"
The man then grabbed the keys to the Benitez family's new white work truck off a table. The family saved money to buy the truck and tools for their landscaping business
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"When I saw him do that, I was like there's no way I'm going to let this guy off," Benitez said. "I cornered him, and all he did is show me some scissors he had. I guess he was trying to intimidate me."
Benitez said his mother intervened, holding him back and telling him to let the man go.
The man ran outside, where he encountered Benitez's father. Video from NewsChopper4 captured the chaotic moments that followed as family members briefly scuffled with the carjacker.
"Once I saw him start it, I kind of already knew it was over," Benitez said. "Just by looking in his eyes, he already knew it was going to be the last day of his life or his freedom, so he didn't care.
"When he started the truck, that's when my heart broke because I knew it was over."
The driver accelerated out of the driveway, damaging the front end of the truck. He turned right down another street as Benitez and his family watched helplessly from the front yard.
In a GoFundMe post, Benitez said his family bought the truck about three weeks ago. The GoFundMe had raised more than $36,000 by Thursday morning.
The pursuit continued with the driver speeding the wrong way on narrow two-lane roads, running red lights at intersections and crashing into several cars. The front driver's side tire shredded off and the chase eventually came to an end at a Hacienda Heights gas station.
Deputies opened fire on the pickup using less-lethal rounds. The driver was taken into custody after a standoff. The truck appeared to briefly catch fire, but deputies behind ballistic shields extinguished the flames.
Details about what will happen to the heavily damaged work truck were not immediately available.
The 32-year-old driver was arrested and hospitalized. Details about his injuries were not immediately available.