Los Angeles

Caught on Camera: Driver of Stolen Ambulance Stops for Cigarettes Before Pursuit

Investigators say a patient commandeered the ambulance, then led officers on a pursuit from Lake Elsinore into the high desert north of Los Angeles

Security cameras captured a shirtless man in a stolen ambulance as he stopped for cigarettes before a pursuit Sunday that began in the Lake Elsinore area and continued into the high desert north of Los Angeles.

The man, a patient who was being transported to Temecula Valley Hospital, apparently broke free from his restraints in the private ambulance and scuffled with a paramedic in the rear of the van. When the driver stopped on a freeway to help, he then commandeered the ambulance and drove to a nearby AM/PM store to buy cigarettes.

Security camera video from the store showed the odriver get out of the ambulance and open the rear doors before putting on pants in the parking lot.  Aylin Brambila was working inside the AM/PM when the man cut to the front of a line to pay.

"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."

He can be seen buying cigarettes on video from cameras inside the store. Video also showed the man driving off in the ambulance -- its rear doors still open -- as a customer at a fuel pump pointed out the vehicle to pursuing deputies.

The pursuit continued on the 15 Freeway and ended about 70 miles later in the Hesperia area when the driver got out of the ambulance as is rolled to a stop in the median. Shirtless and barefoot, the man sprinted across a field before he was taken into custody.

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