Updated: Wild Car Chase Ends at Festival

Firefighters aid the driver of a pursued car.
Firefighters aid the driver of car chased through town by police.

A nearly 17-mile pursuit of a reckless motorist by Newport Beach police Thursday afternoon drew a slew of onlookers along Coast Highway and Broadway Street, and ended in the Festival of Arts parking lot where police used a stun gun to subdue the driver, police said Friday.

The driver, Ryan Leenerts, 31, of Santa Ana, was arrested for evading police and suspicion of driving under the influence, while his passenger was charged with being drunk in public, Newport Beach police Sgt. Rachel Johnson said.

While several officers drew weapons and surrounded the vehicle, no shots were fired, but a taser was used because the driver continued to resist arrest, said Johnson. No weapons were found in the vehicle, she said. Paramedics responded to the scene to remove the puncture dart, which is standard protocol, she said.

Police made four attempts to halt the pursuit that began around Jamboree and Coast Highway about 4 p.m. A spike strip was placed in the roadway in Laguna Beach near Main Beach, which punctured but one tire, Laguna police Capt. Jason Kravetz said.  Newport officers continued the pursuit as far as West Street in South Laguna, where they  attempted a pursuit intervention maneuver, which spun Leenerts’ vehicle in the opposite direction and the pursuit resumed northbound on Coast Highway, Kravetz said.

“It wasn’t as effective as we’ld like,” said Johnson, adding that there were several instances where the pursuit slowed enough for the officers to attempt the stopping maneuver, but the presence of pedestrians prevented intervention.

Police threw out spikes again at Pearl Street, more successfully puncturing the remaining tires. The now slow-speed pursuit continued along Broadway, the white sedan battered by the police maneuver and making a grinding racket.

A damaged bike, rigged on the side of the car, was apparently owned by the occupants, Johnson said.



Police with guns drawn approach the stopped car.
Police with guns drawn approach the stopped car.
The white vehicle drags a broken bike as police are in pursuit.
The white vehicle drags a broken bike as police are in pursuit.
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Police handcuff the unidentified suspect, subdued after one shot was fired although it is unclear if he was wounded.
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