News

Tackle, arrest cap dramatic chase near Cal Ave

Suspicious approach to two Paly students triggers high-speed zigzag chase in the California Avenue business area

A dramatic high-speed police pursuit that zigzagged through the California Avenue business district and side streets early Tuesday afternoon was triggered when a man attempted to entice two freshman Palo Alto High School students into his minivan.

Palo Alto Police Agent Dan Ryan said the male and female students were walking south on Park Boulevard near Piers Park shortly after noon, headed toward California Avenue, when a van with tinted windows pulled up beside them.

"Hey, you want a ride?" the driver called out to the students, Ryan said they reported. The students said the man was between 30 and 40 years old.

Spooked, the students ran toward California Avenue then circled back to Paly and called police, initiating a search of the area.

Detective Brian Philip, who also serves as school resource officer, responded in an unmarked police car and shortly before 2 p.m. spotted a van with tinted windows parked in the Caltrain parking lot at the end of California Avenue. A man was slouched down in the drivers seat.

When Philip approached and introduced himself, the man started the van and sped off, with Philips in pursuit radioing for backup in a high-speed, zigzag chase in the area. Ryan said high-speed chases are according to policy when a serious crime or potential crime is suspected, such as a possible kidnapping attempt.

A regular patrol car joined the chase and took over the lead pursuit, Ryan reported Tuesday night. The chase wove in and out of the area, doubling back and forth on side streets at high rates of speed, with the officer ramming the fleeing vehicle several times in attempts to get it to stop, he said.

The van entered Oregon Expressway and headed east under Alma Street and the Caltrain tracks, but it hit a curb, blowing a tire and crashing, Ryan said. The pursuing patrol car became disabled from a damaged radiator from the rammings.

Ryan said the van's driver climbed out of the car, ran across the westbound lanes of Oregon and headed north on Birch, with Philip and a second patrol car following. The suspect turned left on Sheridan Avenue, where Philip, now out of his car and pursuing on foot, did a full-run tackle on the sidewalk in the 300 block of Sheridan, the first block west of Birch.

"He showed NFL form," Ryan said of Philip's tackle. Ryan and nearly 20 other officers had just started arriving at the scene and Ryan was parking his police car to join the chase when he said he witnessed the tackle from about 40 feet away. Philip played football in college, Ryan acknowledged.

Three officers piled on and handcuffed the man, he said.

When one officer mentioned using a taser, the suspect immediately called out, "I give up. I'm not resisting," Ryan said.

The man was identified as Todd Martin Celano, 35, a transient with a former Palo Alto address believed to be a motel on El Camino Real. Ryan said evidence indicated the man may have been smoking marijuana while parked in the Caltrain lot, and there was a methamphetamine pipe found in the vehicle.

Ryan said Celano was on parole believed to be related to a grand-theft conviction. He was booked into Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose on several felony charges: reckless evasion of police, grand theft auto, possession of stolen property (the van and a stolen license plate on it), resisting arrest and the parole violation.

Ironically, the van was stolen last weekend from an address in the same block where the suspect was captured, Ryan reported.

Ryan said it has not yet been definitely established that Celano is the same man who approached the Paly students, but he is a suspect and the students will be contacted to see if a positive identification can be made.

If he is not the same man, then he was definitely "in the wrong place at the wrong time," Ryan said. (View the press release)

Comments

Posted by Concerned, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 16, 2008 at 11:07 am

A high-speed chase through busy streets in mid-day? To catch one potential suspect, the cops risked many lives in the process. I'm not sure this was warranted. I'm glad they caught the guy, but they're damn lucky not to have injured or killed drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians during the chase.


Posted by Ed, a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2008 at 12:05 pm

If you were kidnapped in that vehicle, would you want the police to stop and say "forget about it?"


Posted by A Mom, a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 16, 2008 at 12:24 pm

Thank you, Palo Alto PD, for getting this guy off our streets.


Posted by GMC, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 16, 2008 at 12:51 pm

I understand your concern, "Concerned," but I do think this sort of situation warrants a taking the risk of a high speed pursuit. It should remind anyone who is a driver or a pedestrian to drive or even walk defensively at all times - you never know what is going to happen. Thanks again PAPD!


Posted by A Boomer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2008 at 2:43 pm

The suspect was first confronted near the proposed new location for the public safety building. If the building were there, everyone could have walked and run, instead of using their vehicles.

Tongue in cheek comment aside, after what occured with the Gunn student and Burpee a few weeks back, the police no doubt have had some pretty thorough discussions about their approach when situations like this present themselves. Those appear to have paid off. Thanks PAPD, I speak as a parent of a high school girl here in town.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Thanks PAPD. No thanks to the homeless shelters that are a magnet for drifters like this. Look out Palo Alto, it's going to get much worse as word spreads about the wonderful facilities we offer homeless here in Palo Alto, including the "Opportunity Center".


Posted by Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 16, 2008 at 3:24 pm

Apparently having the "Opportunity Center" will give us the opportunity to see the word "transient" in lots of future crime stories--- what a great opportunity.


"Todd Martin Celano, 35, a transient with a former Palo Alto address believed to be a motel on El Camino Real. Ryan said evidence indicated the man may have been smoking marijuana while parked in the Caltrain lot, and there was a methamphetamine pipe found in the vehicle."



Posted by Citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2008 at 4:37 pm

Shall we applaud the police for endangering the lives of the citizens in order to a criminal?
He could have easily killed somebody in his efforts to evade arrest- and the police are quite
fortunate that this did not happen- despite their reckless pursuit.


Posted by Somebody, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 16, 2008 at 5:34 pm

the result turned out good, and i have no problem with how things were handled. i simply wanted to point out a little fact that made me laugh.

they said about 20 officers were arriving on the scene. 20 officers responded to someone who was only a suspect in an incident in which all he asked is if they wanted a ride (although, it is indeed easy to assume that it was an attempted kidnapping).
If you were in downtown new york city, would 20 officers respond to a call about someone offering young students a ride? i think not.
nothing ever happens in palo alto. thats why when something goes down, the entire department comes to join in. i personally think its a bit funny.


Posted by TIm, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2008 at 6:20 pm

Thank you PAPD! It is just to bad that you couldn't have tazer the guy.


Posted by We won't forget., a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 16, 2008 at 6:38 pm


"A transient". Next time somebody writes about how the homeless wandering our streets pose no problems, remember about this "transient"...and the guy who broke the windows at T & C to rob the place...and....etc.

And the next time somebody writes about having no problem with the OC next to Paly....remember...

There's tragedy on the way...and we are getting a pretty good idea of who is to blame for not stopping it...


Posted by Manuel, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 16, 2008 at 8:55 pm

To Somebody in Barron Park,

Nothing ever happens in Palo Alto? Tell that to the Arastradero kidnap/rape victim and her family. I think you know little about what happens in Palo Alto. I also think that you would neither have the courage or ability to do what our officers do in Palo Alto every day.


Posted by Go, PAPD, a resident of Southgate
on Jan 16, 2008 at 9:34 pm

"20 officers responded to someone who was only a suspect in an incident in which all he asked is if they wanted a ride (although, it is indeed easy to assume that it was an attempted kidnapping)."

No, the officers were responding to a highly suspicious person for "reckless evasion of police, grand theft auto, possession of stolen property (the van and a stolen license plate on it), resisting arrest", and whatever else they couldn't verify at the time but had to assume the worst. It was a van with tinted glass that allegedly tried to pick up the high schoolers several hours earlier. How can the police know what's going on in the back of the van (kidnapped, raped, assaulted, drugged, etc.) unless they stop him?

How would you be reacting differently if they gave up the chase and it came to be known later that he was hiding something horrific in the back that could have been prevented? Would you still be pleased that they let him go? Armchair quarterbacks.


Posted by Norm, a resident of Southgate
on Jan 16, 2008 at 9:45 pm

all you ignornant doubters should get a gun and badge and take on the criminals in our town. You are weak and unwilling sitting there in your glass houses. You criticize because your unable. the amount of oakland, SF and epa criminals in our town is growing but you would not know because you assume nothing happens in our town. Wake up and read the police blotter once and a while.


Posted by John Doe, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 16, 2008 at 9:53 pm

One thing i noticed, being a former student of paly:
they said it happened at around 2:00pm on a tuesday, to two FRESHMEN.
school is still in session at that time. and there are no freshman at paly that have 7th period prep periods (thus meaning they wouldnt need to be in school at that time). this never would have happened had the students not been intentionally cutting class. they themselves broke the law: assuming they were both under the age of 16, they are required by state law to attend school.
but the fact of that matter is, it happened. so good job to the p.d. who stopped this crazy person


Posted by Ed, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 17, 2008 at 2:58 am

John Doe...the students were at lunch break, around 12 when they were approached, not 2pm. The officer eventually spotted the guy at 2pm.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 17, 2008 at 10:06 am

Why did this transient select Palo Alto?


Posted by Downtown North, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 17, 2008 at 11:48 am

I believe in all fairness that most of our transient population is not involved in serious crimes. We should avoid the hysteria until we know all the facts. At the same time, there are certainly issues that need to be addressed. People ask why transients choose Palo Alto? Just some of the reasons, which are no fault of Palo Altans, nor should they be viewed as being something wrong or a weakness. Just the dynamics that might be contributing to this situation.

1. A liberal, highly tolerant community overall. Over many years, the transients have become part of Palo Alto's institution and culture.

2. A generous community in both donations and patience.

3. Active in politics, with a sense of civic obligation to everyone.
(ie: approval for the Opportunity Center being built).

4. Law enforcement, that to a degree, must reflect these standards.
(ie: like San Francisco, Berkeley, Santa Cruz Police Deps).

5. Private organizations downtown that provide food, clothing, etc.
(ie: weekday give-aways at one of the downtown churches).

6. Private organizations that provide temporary shelter.
(ie: Hotel DeZink set up by many area churches). If I remember the news right a few years back, also where a Palo Alto shooting death/murder took place on Middlefield near Lucie Stern.

7. A long history of outreach. The Opp. Center was not the first.
(The Urban Ministry drop/in center was there for many years just down the street near the downtown train station)

8. For those living on the street, a safe environment, close to services, with temperent weather.

9. Easy access to public transportation. Bus/train services.

10. Palo Alto being located between two Veteran Hospitals. One in Palo Alto, one in Menlo Park. No disrespect to the armed services, and nothing but honor to those who serve, but war does leave us with those people who end up with mental health and substance abuse problems.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 18, 2008 at 9:22 am

Let me just add that the transients are also given free bus passes by those in Palo Alto who think that transients should be attracted to our city and then should receive very generous benefits for making the trip here.

City Council is well aware of what they have done here and I predict that a hugh law suit is in the making as the transient population grows in step with the benefits offered. Placing these shelters near a local high school is a lawsuit in the making.


Posted by stu, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 18, 2008 at 3:48 pm

not all people are ''transients''. they just were priced out of their formeer residences , which were many locations in oalo alto for 30 YEARS! enough of you prejudiced people who think you are the only thing in existence.


Posted by Lya, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 17, 2008 at 11:40 pm

Since when do we all agree that we can believe everything that the media/internet says? Do we not investigate the truth in our media stories anymore? Guilty until proven innocent? Sad, but true.

Truth? The man who was caught, Todd, was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is on parole and (knowing him as I do) likely freaked out when he saw the police in pursuit and ran. Dummy, yes, he is sometimes. Kidnapper, no, really he isn't. Not the same guy, which the witnesses will absolutely attest to.

In the meantime, the media has further perpetuated yet another half truth that the police did the right thing and caught the bad guy. He's still out there folks.


Posted by PAPD, nice job!, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 18, 2008 at 7:57 am

Thank you goes out to the PAPD!

The streets around Cal Ave are filled with people living in their cars. Most of the cars, if not all, have expired plates and I'm wiling to be they drive around with no insurance (required by law).

I don't care what anyone else thinks but having support for homeless people, without getting them back on track (jobs, paying for their own shelter), only attracts more of them. I know some will argue the mental side- stating that some of the homeless are struggling with some sort of mental disorder, but I would argue most don't fall under that category; and those that aren't should be called bums.

We deserve a cleaner and safer community; I say deserve because I work hard in order to pay for my house.

peace.


Posted by vanessa celano, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2011 at 3:11 pm

this man is my father. and he is many things but is NOT a wierdo.if you knew him you wouldnt be defimating his carachter in your ignorant posts. and kudos to innvisions opportunity center to provide the basic lifes services all humans should have . im going there now to donate $1000.00 to thier cause.palo alto , and its ignorant arrogant, pretentious resdidents make my stomach turn.


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