09/26/2007

Calif. car thief shot after trying to run over police

Modesto Bee Staff

MANTECA, Calif. — Police on Tuesday morning shot and wounded a car theft suspect as he drove at an officer, investigators said.

The suspect, later identified as Jose Luis Ayala, 20, of the Bay Area, led police on a chase through the Tracy area to the Altamont Pass, stopping only after a spike strip punctured the tires of the stolen car he was driving, Manteca police spokesman Rex Osborn said. Ayala had surgery for a gunshot wound to his hand and is being treated under guard at an area hospital, Osborn said.

According to Osborn, the incident began at 1:29 a.m. when a car alarm went off in the 1400 block of Sextant Way in the southern part of the city. The car owner came out and got a description of the would-be thief, and someone else called police.

Officers, who arrived within a minute, found a man trying to break into another car, Osborn said. The man jumped into a third car, which had been stolen about six blocks away. Officer Aaron Montoya approached the car, and when the man would not stop or open the door, broke the driver's side window with a baton, Osborn said.

Montoya used a Taser on the man, but he drove off, Osborn said. About a half-block away, the man encountered another officer, standing at Compass Way.

"The driver of the stolen car drove directly where the officer was standing," Osborn said. "The officer backpedaled, firing several rounds, hitting the car and hitting the driver in one of his hands."

The driver led officers on a chase around Manteca to Interstate 5, through Tracy on Interstate 205, and to Interstate 580 west, Osborn said. Officers lost him when they slowed for construction near Tracy, but a California Highway Patrol helicopter spotted the car.

Officers put down spike strips, which stopped the car. They ar- rested Ayala at 2:18 a.m., originally thinking the wound to his right hand was caused by flying glass, Osborn said.

Charges are pending a medical review and a review by the San Joaquin County district attorney's office. The officer who fired shots has been placed on administrative leave, standard procedure in an officer-involved shooting, Osborn said.

Officials also will not release the name of the officer for 24 hours. Osborn said he has been with the Manteca department for six months and transferred from another agency.

Copyright 2007 The Modesto Bee

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