A 36-year-old man attempted a harrowing escape from Palo Alto police on Monday and was arrested after he fled at high speed on Embarcadero Road, driving recklessly in the oncoming lane, a police spokesperson said.
The incident began in the 700 block of Wildwood Lane at about 2 p.m., when the man, driving a blue Mini Cooper, allegedly approached a woman who was out walking and solicited her to come with him. Instead, she called the police.
An officer in the area spotted the car and made a U-turn, but the driver quickly fled by heading west on Embarcadero and was gone. The officer didn't pursue the driver due to concern about causing a wreck along the heavily traveled road, police Lt. Brian Philip said. The driver allegedly sped at an estimated 80 miles per hour, often driving the wrong way, according to police.
Officers found the Mini Cooper crashed into a tree at the corner of Fulton Street and Embarcadero. The driver was nowhere to be found. The car had a stolen license plate on the back that belonged to another Mini Cooper; the front plate was turned backward but belonged to the car. Officers ran the license plate and discovered the car had been stolen, Philip said.
To find the driver, police set up a perimeter around the 1700 block between Fulton and Guinda streets. Officers asked residents who came out of their homes to go back inside.
But multiple residents saw the man, who was wearing a walking boot due to a foot or leg injury, hiding in backyards and called police with the information, Philip said. Sensing that officers were closing in, the man popped out onto Seale Avenue near Fulton. He tried to scale a fence during the ensuing foot pursuit but failed. Officers quickly stopped him and he was taken into custody, Philip said.
The man told police he is a transient from San Mateo County. He was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose on suspicion of vehicle theft, hit and run, reckless driving, being an unlicensed driver, prowling and resisting arrest for fleeing the officers.
Philip said residents provided the kind of cooperation that officers appreciate.
"The public was very helpful by providing specific information that helped us capture this suspect," Philip said.
The residents also helped by following requests to stay inside and away from the area and by not personally engaging with the man, he said.
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