Driver of stolen car arrested on campus

A man was arrested at gunpoint at Pierce College on Friday by the Los Angeles Police Department after the white Honda Accord he was driving was flagged as stolen.

The man and a female passenger were driving the vehicle south on Winnetka Avenue when an LAPD squad car ordered them to pull over. The driver pulled into the campus on Brahma Drive, turned onto Avenue of Champions and stopped the car in front of the Sheriff’s Station. The stolen car’s occupants complied when ordered out of the vehicle by officers with weapons drawn. The man was arrested, and the woman was transported to the hospital in unknown condition.

“Earlier in the day a couple of our officers did some random hotel checks because it’s common to find stolen property and stolen cars in some of these hotel lots,” said John Matassa, a sergeant with the LAPD. “They saw this vehicle behind us and it didn’t have a license plate, so they checked the VIN number, they ran it and it came up stolen.”

When the vehicle came up in the system as stolen, the officers waited for the driver to return to the car. They then followed him from the Rodeway Inn hotel on Winnetka Avenue and Runnymede Street, travelling south on Winnetka and proceeded to pull the stolen car over. Though the driver did not pull over immediately, according to Matassa, the driver did not attempt to escape and pulled into the Pierce College parking lot. When the vehicle stopped, officers swarmed the vehicle with their weapons drawn.

“That’s standard procedure, because we don’t know if they’re armed,” Matassa said. “Usually people who commit grand theft felony type crimes of this nature, it’s commonplace that they would be armed.”

Police removed the man from the car and placed him under arrest. Matassa said the man was arrested for grand theft auto. However, Douglas Johnson, a robbery detective with the LAPD Topanga Division, said he was arrested for violating California vehicle code 10851, the theft and unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle. According to Johnson the felony charge differs from grand theft auto in that the latter requires evidence the suspect intended to keep the car for an extended period of time.

The female passenger reportedly appeared ill, and was transported to an unknown hospital in unknown condition by ambulance. A syringe was seen being removed from the car but whether it belonged to the man or woman or was associated with narcotics is unknown.

“I noticed she was kind of fidgeting a little bit, making a lot of abrupt movements,” Matassa said. “Which usually indicates someone is under the influence of methamphetamine.”

Neither Johnson nor Matassa knew if the woman was likely to face any charges in connection with the crime.

The vehicle was impounded and will eventually be released to the owner.