Woman charged in deadly crash led Laguna Beach officers on 100 mph chase

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A Laguna Beach police patrol car. Photo courtesy of LBPD

A woman charged with murder in a Dana Point traffic collision on Aug. 19 reached 100 mph on South Coast Highway with Laguna Beach police officers in pursuit, authorities said.

Ariana Joyce, 44, is suspected of driving into another vehicle, fatally injuring a 23-year-old Rancho Santa Margarita man.

On Thursday, Laguna Beach police released their account of events leading up to the crash.

A Laguna Beach police officer contacted a vehicle with its hazard lights on parked against a red cub at Park Avenue and Glenneyre Street around 10:27 p.m. on Aug. 19, Sgt. Jim Cota wrote in a prepared statement.

The officer exited his patrol car and knocked on the driver window of the occupied car. Joyce looked at the officer and then drove to Park Avenue and Catalina Street, where she stopped. The officer got back in his patrol car and pulled behind the vehicle and advised dispatchers that he was on a traffic stop. The officer then attempted to explain to Joyce why he was contacting her.

“The driver began talking extremely fast, leading the officer to believe she may be under in the influence of drugs,” Cota said.

Joyce also allegedly refused to give the officer her driver’s license. The officer ordered the driver not to leave, but she ignored his commands, rolled up her window, and fled southbound on Catalina Street.

The original officer and a second officer pursued the driver believing she was driving under the influence. Joyce then went westbound on Legion Street where she threw her cellphone out of the car’s window, authorities said. The vehicle turned southbound on South Coast Highway and continued to flee at a high rate of speed through the amid very light traffic.

“Upon hearing the speed, the watch commander canceled the pursuit and the units concluded their involvement,” Cota said.

Minutes later, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department advised the vehicle sought by Laguna Beach officers was involved in a traffic collision in the area of Coast Highway and Selva Road. 

The OCSD Major Accident Reconstruction Team responded to the scene and investigated the traffic collision as a DUI-related after narcotics were found inside Joyce’s vehicle.

Authorities later discovered Joyce had multiple warrants for her arrest for failure to appear and priors for evading police

In addition to murder, Joyce faces felony charges for driving under the influence of a drug causing injury, two enhancements for a secondary offense committed while released from custody, and an enhancement for inflicting great bodily injury, according to court records.

Joyce is in custody at Theo Lacy Jail on a $2 million bail. She is scheduled to appear in Orange County Superior Court on Sept. 18, according to the jail records.

Joyce was restrained by a judge last year from contacting Coldplay’s lead singer Chris Martin, the lead singer of the band Coldplay, after multiple cases of stalking, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court records.

The Laguna Beach Police Department maintains a policy that allows officers to end a pursuit if they believe continuing would risk public safety, Cota said.

“If an officer feels a person’s driving is too erratic— including wrong side of the road— an officer can discontinue themselves,” Cota said. “Once it gets past a certain speed either [officers] or the watch commander needs to say, ‘we need to shut this down,’ if the circumstances warrant it.”

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