Palo Alto police arrested Cameron Conley, 19, of Oakland after a nearly three-hour manhunt near downtown Palo Alto Thursday afternoon. A police dog discovered Conley hiding under a house. He was wearing only his boxer shorts, according to a witness.
Conley led police on a wild chase through downtown and into the Downtown North neighborhood after a traffic stop on University Avenue, crashing into six cars and attempting to carjack a truck, police said.
Roberta Chew, the homeowner under whose house Conley was discovered, said police used surveillance-camera footage from her home to determine that Conley was on the property. He was seen entering from a side gate on Everett Avenue near the garage and paced back and forth a few times looking for a hiding place, she said.
The nanny was at home cooking a snack for Chew's daughter when she saw a shadow go past the back window, Chew said.
"Before she dismissed it, the house was surrounded by police," she said.
Police contacted Chew's husband, Alex, who was at work and returned to the house to give police the surveillance recordings. Cameras showed Conley walking up the driveway and going toward the back of the house, but a tall wall prevented him from hopping into other properties, she said.
The cameras also revealed that Conley had not left the property, she said.
Police found him wedged under the crawlspace. Chew said he appeared to have removed his clothing because the space was so tight and he would have otherwise become snagged while trying to squeeze in.
At about 12:35 p.m., two traffic-enforcement officers on University Avenue had attempted to stop Conley for a cell phone violation and blocking an intersection.
Conley accelerated away from officers and crashed his car into six occupied vehicles in the 300 and 400 blocks of University before jumping out, abandoning his vehicle and running away on foot. The officers chased him as he ran into the neighborhood.
At one point Conley allegedly jumped into the driver's seat of a truck that was double-parked with the engine running in the 300 block of Waverley Street. The owner of the truck, a man in his 50s who was standing nearby, hopped into the passenger seat in an attempt to prevent the theft of his vehicle, police said.
Conley allegedly told the victim that he had a gun and ordered him to get out of the car. The victim refused and began to struggle with Conley, who drove the car about half a block with the victim still inside. The victim overpowered Conley and put his foot on the vehicle's brake.
Conley exited the truck and continued to flee on foot. The victim never saw a gun, nor was one ever found during the incident, police said.
The officers last saw Conley in the area of Waverley and Hawthorne Avenue and started to receive reports from residents that he was hopping fences in their yards. Police set up a containment perimeter and searched yards for the 6-foot-tall Conley, who was wearing blue pants and a white shirt. Witnesses said he had a shaved head.
Several officers and detectives from the Palo Alto Police Department, assisted by canine teams from the East Palo Alto Police Department and the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office and deputies from the Stanford Department of Public Safety methodically searched yard-to-yard and house-to-house. When they reached a home in the 200 block of Waverley between Hawthorne and Everett, they found evidence in the yard indicating that Conley might be hiding in the crawlspace under the home.
After officers made a number of commands for the suspect to surrender if he was inside, they sent a police dog into the crawlspace to search for him. The dog located him, but Conley refused to give up. The dog bit Conley, and police took him into custody at about 3:22 p.m.
Officers transported him to a local hospital for treatment of minor puncture wounds to one arm from the dog bite. Medical treatment at a hospital for injuries sustained as a result of a police-dog bite is standard procedure, police said.
The carjacking victim had minor scrapes and scratches to his hands and arms as a result of his struggle, but he declined medical attention. An occupant in one of the six vehicles Conley struck complained of back pain. No officers were injured during the incident.
Police found several pieces of what they described as commercial property that might be stolen during a search of Conley's car. Officers plan to determine the origin of the property in the coming days, police said.
Conley was to be booked Thursday night into the Santa Clara County Main Jail on a multitude of charges following his release from the hospital, police said. The charges include three felonies: carjacking, kidnapping and felony hit-and-run for the accident resulting in injury; and eight misdemeanors: resisting arrest, battery on the carjacking/kidnapping victim, prowling for being in the crawlspace, and five counts of misdemeanor hit-and-run.
Chew said ordinarily at that time of day the nanny takes her daughter to the park, but she happened to be home cooking for her on Thursday.
"It was all coincidence, coincidence. I don't think many other homes in this neighborhood have cameras. He chose the one house on the block that did. It's funny. It just feels so random. It's a story you just can't make up," she said.
The Palo Alto Police Department used the AlertSCC telephone notification system to notify residents in the neighborhood during the incident. Residents can sign up for the system by registering for free at www.alertscc.com. The department also posted regular updates on its Twitter page.
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the police 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to [email protected] or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.
Watch video of arrest (video courtesy of Christopher Gadda)