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CHP car chase ends in gunfire

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Saturday September 08, 2001

A police chase that began in San Francisco ended in gunfire Friday afternoon when a man suspected of car theft allegedly threatened CHP officers with gun after abandoning a truck in Berkeley. 

According to CHP Public Affairs Officer Sean Chase, at least one CHP officer fired an unknown number of rounds at 30-year-old Lamont Austin when he abandoned the truck on Ashby Avenue at Sacramento Street. 

Police said no one was injured in the shooting. 

According to Chase, Austin threatened two officers with a handgun as he fled on foot between two homes after abandoning the light-blue Dodge truck he was suspected of stealing. But as of 6 p.m. Friday, both the CHP and the Berkeley Police Department, which is investigating the case, could not say they found the suspect’s weapon. 

Chase said Austin initially alluded police on foot by jumping over a series of backyard fences in the residential district. Because the suspect was reported to be armed, Oakland, Berkeley and CHP officers closed off several blocks of traffic while a block by block search was conducted.  

Austin was found hiding in a dumpster behind a home on Ashby Avenue shortly after he abandoned the truck. He was taken into custody by Berkeley police and is expected to be charged with auto theft, hit and run and felony reckless driving, according to Berkeley police Lt. Cynthia Harris. 

“The case is still under investigation and we can’t say for sure if the suspect has any other arrest warrants out,” she said.  

CHP officer Annie Greenfield said the pursuit began in San Francisco when a man reported that his truck had been stolen and that the suspect was heading toward the Bay Bridge. Officers chased Austin at speeds above 80 mph across the Bay Bridge and then north on Interstate 80 to the Powell Street exit. 

The pursuit continued on surface streets until Austin abandoned the truck. 

Kandy Mann, owner of Kandy Mann’s Detail Center at the corner of Ashby Avenue and Sacramento Street, said he saw the CHP chasing the truck but didn’t pay much attention until he heard a shot. 

“That’s when things got interesting and I thought I’d better take a second look,” he said. “I only heard one shot but it was a loud one.”