Even deputies who have seen scores of pursuits during their law enforcement careers were surprised by what happened at the end of a chase and hours-long standoff east of Los Angeles.
A 9-year-old girl was in tears as she popped out of the car, its window shattered by pepper balls during the standoff Tuesday afternoon at a Diamond Bar intersection. She ran into the arms of Special Enforcement Bureau Deputy Darell Edwards, a father of three.
“We had no knowledge that a child was in the car,'' said Edwards.
Edwards said he wanted to take care of the girl and let her know everything was ok. He said she asked for water as he escorted her to paramedics.
Get Southern California news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC LA newsletters.
"My fatherly instincts kicked in, and we just wanted to recover her, check on her well-being," Edwards said at a news conference Wednesday. "She was crying. She was grabbing hold of me. And, I just told her it's ok, it's ok.
"I didn't really concern myself much with the threat from that vehicle. It was just about grabbing that little girl and getting her out of harm's way."
The dramatic scene unfolded after a high-speed pursuit that started near the Walnut-Diamond Bar sheriff's station, entered the Inland Empire and headed back to Diamond Bar. A nearly three-hour standoff followed after the driver — the girl’s mother — smashed through a line of cars at an intersection.
The sheriff's department spoke with the driver during the standoff, but she said no one else was in the car, authorities said. Deputies used a drone to get a closer look inside the sedan, but said it's possible the girl was in the trunk during at least part of the standoff.
The SWAT team eventually fired tear gas into the car to get the girl's mother to surrender. She was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, child endangerment and felony evading, and was being held on $130,000 bail, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.
Her daughter was taken to a hospital for a precautionary medical examination, and was released to the custody of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.
The ordeal began with a hit-and-run crash at about 3:20 p.m. Tuesday near the sheriff’s station, according to Deputy Trina Schrader of the Sheriff's Information Bureau.
“The pursuit stemmed from the female suspect becoming involved in a road rage incident with another motorist on the road, which transpired into the suspect using her vehicle as a weapon against the other motorist,'' Schrader said. “Deputies were flagged down by the motorist who had repeatedly and intentionally been rear-ended by the suspect vehicle.”
When deputies tried to make contact with the driver, she fled, authorities said.
A sheriff's sergeant was involved in a crash while trying to take command of the pursuit, Schrader said. The sergeant was taken to a hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries and later released.
The suspect led deputies on a multi-county chase before the car became disabled on Diamond Bar Boulevard between Palomino
Drive and the Pomona (60) Freeway after rear-ending another vehicle. Deputies surrounded the car and fired at least a dozen bean bag-type rounds to try to break the tinted windows so they could see inside.
A sheriff's SWAT team with crisis negotiators and armored vehicles arrived. At about 7 p.m., with armored vehicles surrounding three sides of the car, tear gas was fired into the vehicle.
“After introducing a gas agent, and to the surprise of all personnel, an unknown female child exited the rear of the vehicle and was brought to safety in the arms of an SEB deputy,'' Schrader said. “Shortly thereafter, the female suspect was removed from the vehicle and taken into custody without further incident.''