The Highway Patrol arrested a wrong-way driver who led them on an hours-long, slow-speed chase up and down Hwy 101 from Cuesta Grade to Shell Beach.
According to a CHP news release, at 10:35 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26 an officer was driving Hwy 101 southbound near the top of Cuesta Grade, when he saw a 3-axel flatbed truck traveling the wrong way on the freeway. The truck was southbound in the northbound lanes and passed the officer on the road.
The officer sped ahead and turned around at Monterey Street ahead of the wrong-way truck, “in order to bring in a traffic break in an attempt to stop the wrong way driver,” reads the news release.
That didn’t work and the truck continued on, driving on the wrong side of the freeway. The truck reached the bottom of the Cuesta Grade and used a turn-around gap in the median barrier to get himself back on the correct side of the freeway. The officer tried to stop the truck again but the driver kept on going; an OJ-like pursuit ensued.
“The suspect fled from CHP units at approximately 10 mph or less,” the report said. “During the pursuit, multiple spike strips were successfully deployed.”
The truck driver turned the rig around at the Laetitia Vineyard in South County and kept going northbound on Hwy 101 (on the right side of the road this time).
With flattened front tires, the truck finally stopped on the highway near Spyglass Drive in Shell Beach but the driver reportedly still refused to give himself up.
“Officers approached the vehicle and deployed OC [pepper] spray,” the release said, “into the cab of the vehicle in hopes the suspect would exit.”
A dose of the choking pepper spray took most of the fight out of the fellow, who reportedly still exited his truck armed with a pair of pruning shears and “was not complying with officer’s commands.”
An officer then deployed a taser and the man was taken into custody without further incident.
The slow-speed chase lasted about two hours, according to the report. The driver was taken to the hospital for treatment of pepper spray and then booked into County Jail. The driver, who was identified as Antonio Vega Torres Jr., 43 of Lompoc, is suspected of driving under the influence of a drug, the report said, and the truck “was confirmed to have been stolen.”