05/09/2006

Calif. woman kills herself after police chase

Tim Eberly The Fresno Bee

Copyright 2006 McClatchy Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

A 33-year-old Fresno woman, surrounded by three officers with their guns drawn, fatally shot herself Sunday evening in a car outside a northwest Fresno home where she apparently went to kill two women.

The woman led California Highway Patrol officers on a 10-minute pursuit from Auberry, where one of the officers caught her speeding.

As the officers -- two from the California Highway Patrol and the third with Fresno police -- approached the car she was in, the woman shot herself in the face. She was pronounced dead later at University Medical Center, the CHP reported.

Her name had not been made public as of 10 p.m. Sunday, as the coroner's office still was trying to notify the woman's family of her death.

After the suicide victim was driven to the hospital, officers found a diary on the front passenger floorboard of the car, which she had rented, that detailed a plot to kill two women authorities identified as friends, said Matt Radke, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol.

The women spoke with police, but declined requests for comment. Police did not release their names.

In the diary, officers discovered a two-page entry, dated May 7, in which the woman wrote about her plan to come to the home, shoot the women and then kill herself, Radke said.

But the CHP officer who spotted the woman speeding north of Fresno altered that plan.

The officer, who asked not to be identified, had been watching out for speeders on Auberry Road, north of Copper Road.

At 5:01 p.m., the woman's maroon Saturn traveled past him at 69 mph as she headed south on Auberry.

He tried to pull the woman over using the squad car's lights and sirens, but she ignored him and headed toward Fresno, the officer said. Another CHP officer joined in the pursuit as the woman drove south.

At 5:03, the woman called the intended victims' home and spoke to someone, Radke said. It's not clear what she said, but the resident heard sirens in the background, Radke said.

The resident then called 911, saying that someone was armed with weapons and coming to the home in the 5500 block of North Maroa Avenue, just south of West Browning Avenue.

The caller told police the woman would be driving a white GMC pickup, but the woman was in the rental Saturn. Radke said he did not know whether she had rented the car solely to commit the crimes.

The CHP officers followed her into Fresno. The woman's pace hovered around 55 mph, but she ran numerous stop signs and red lights, the officer said.

About 10 minutes later, she sped down Maroa and turned into the driveway of the home she was targeting, according to the CHP.

Jose Rodriguez and his wife and two daughters were walking on the sidewalk in front of a house directly across the street when Rodriguez said he first heard sirens, then saw someone come out of the house with a cell phone shortly before the maroon car arrived, with the squad cars following close behind.

Before the woman could get out of the car, the trio of officers approached the Saturn from behind with their weapons drawn, Radke said. They ordered her to raise her hands in the air, but the woman lifted a handgun to her head.

The second CHP officer had the best view of the woman, and saw the handgun as she lifted it, Radke said. "Gun! Gun!" he yelled to warn the other officers, according to Radke.

But the woman pulled the trigger, Radke said. Her head fell back against the seat's headrest but she remained upright, the unidentified officer said.

Rodriguez, assuming police had shot the motorist, gathered his wife and daughters and ushered them into the house where they were supposed to attend a church party.

The Saturn had not been put into the parking gear, and it lurched forward and slammed into the garage door of the tan-colored house where the two women live, tearing and bending the door.

The officers, suspecting the woman had shot herself but not knowing her condition, retreated and called for backup. Dozens of police cars filled the street, attracting the attention of neighbors and passing motorists.

At 5:43 p.m., a half-dozen officers in a single-file line moved in to check the car. They discovered the woman and had her driven to UMC.

In the Saturn, police found a second handgun and the diary.

The reporter can be reached at teberly@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6465. 

 

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