Police Fire on Suspected Car Thief

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This story was updated Monday, July 3.

Richard Lewis
Richard Lewis

A suspected car thief, cornered in the backyard of a home after fleeing from police who had fired on his vehicle, surrendered without incident Sunday evening, police said.

Police arrested Richard Lyle Lewis, 55, of Redlands, who was behind the wheel of a car stolen in Palm Springs the day before, according to Sgt. Jim Cota. No one was injured in the shooting.

The officer who fired on the fleeing vehicle was “trying to neutralize a threat” as the motorist drove his vehicle by two police cruisers stopped behind each other after making a u-turn on the dead-end of Thalia Street nearest the water, Cota said.

“They warned this guy repeatedly to stop,” said Mary Byrne Rowe, the four-year owner of the glass-walled Bead Shop, located on the corner of Thalia Street and Coast Highway, who heard two shots fired. Her shop full of customers unexpectedly had a front-row view of the corner confrontation, though Rowe herself said she ducked behind the counter.

Rowe said initially she ignored the ruckus outside, which sounded much like the typical ambient street sounds of yelling by boisterous beach goers and parking space squabbles. “Then we saw the police. They warned this guy repeatedly to stop, turn off the car and get out. The guy was going to run them over,” Rowe said.

A customer who watched the action from within the shop described a car moving slowly as a female passenger exited the car and then accelerating towards the officers standing in the street. “The guy was going to run them over,” she said, convinced the officers were trying to disable to car when they fired before jumping out of the way.

A woman passenger either jumped or was pushed from the car in the 100 block of Thalia, Cota said, before the suspected car thief threaded his way between the cruisers and parked cars to make his getaway.

He did not get far. Lewis abandoned the stolen sedan in the 600 block of Cuprien Way, a small lane off of Thalia Street, and then ran through yards and jumped fences in the hilly neighborhood north of the high school. Exhausted after the nearly half-mile foot pursuit, he was found in the backyard of a home on Glomstad Lane and surrendered to police, Cota said.

“I was enjoying a relaxing Sunday afternoon on my deck when I was jolted by the arrival of five police SUVs barreling down my quiet cul de sac,” resident Rosemary McDonald wrote in a post on Nextdoor, the social media site. “Two policemen on foot with guns drawn asked if I had seen any suspicious persons. They were accompanied by a K-9 unit and a police helicopter hovering overhead that provided via loudspeaker a description of the suspect and asked anyone in the area who saw this person to immediately call 911. Needless to say, I am grateful it was resolved.”

Lewis was wanted on a no-bail parolee-at-large warrant and also an outstanding $100,000 warrant for identity theft by courts in Banning and Indio, respectively, according to the police log. Lewis was charged with assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, felony evading, and possession of stolen property, Cota said.

The woman passenger was not charged.

Neither a weapon nor contraband was found in the vehicle, Cota said.

The department will conduct an internal investigation of the incident, a routine practice to evaluate officer involved shootings, Cota said. The officer who fired his weapon was not identified and is an 18-year law enforcement veteran, the statement says.

An Anaheim police department helicopter assisted with the call as did sheriff’s deputies and Newport Beach police, says a police statement.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. YIKES! In the middle of a busy 4th of July weekend Laguna Police FIRE SHOTS to “neutralize a threat”???? It was a stolen car. Was it worth the possibility of haring the public THAT close to our beaches to get back a stolen car? The shots didn’t even disable the car……
    Major pandemonium, ghetto birds and firearms everywhere to recover a car.
    Is this proper protocol for a stolen vehicle or police state overreach?

    Be aware and be careful general public.

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