Fleeing man runs out of gas, arrested after Hemet pursuit

HEMET — A man who led Hemet police officers on a pursuit deemed so dangerous that officials called off their chase, was subsequently apprehended after apparently running out of gas and attempting to flee on foot last night, Tuesday, Jan. 29. Despite calling off their pursuit, officers who were still in the area when the alleged suspect fled on foot chased the fleeing man through traffic and into a nearby shopping center parking lot. They eventually caught up with the him in front of a McDonald’s, which was packed with patrons eating or ordering their dinners.

Shocked witnesses reported that the alleged suspect, later identified as Justin J. Mitchell, 23, refused to be taken into custody without a fight, and official radio traffic at the time indicated officers managed to apprehend the combative man only after deploying a Taser electronic control device.

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Last night’s incident began around 6:40 p.m., when officers responded to Tommy’s Express Car Wash on the 200 block of S. Sanderson Ave., after receiving reports of a man who was possibly doing or selling drugs while sitting inside a yellow Ford Mustang. The 911 caller reported seeing a person described as a juvenile inside the car with the alleged suspect.

Surveillance footage, later obtained by Eddie George of Facebook’s Hemet News, showed officers in marked patrol vehicles arriving at the car wash, just as the juvenile ran from the area and Mitchell jumped back into the Mustang and attempted to drive away from the parking lot. (See Hemet News and other videos below.)

Justin Mitchell is seen being treated by medics after he fought with officers and was Tasered at the end of a dangerous pursuit. Timothy Franzese/Public Safety Incidents photo

When officers attempted to conduct an investigatory traffic stop to question Mitchell, he refused to yield to officers’ lights and sirens and a pursuit was initiated. As Mitchell fled the parking lot, he first fled east from Sanderson Ave. onto Acacia Ave., then north on Lyon St. to Florida Ave.

As more officers and Gang Task Force members joined the chase, Mitchell continued fleeing eastbound on Florida Ave. to Hamilton Ave. After racing along several smaller streets and through residential neighborhoods, Mitchell ended up back on Florida Ave., where he was soon nearly hitting triple-digit speeds, in excess of 90 mph.

As the pursuit continued, Mitchell drove without regard for the safety of pursuing officers or other citizens and despite heavy, rush hour traffic, was seen running stop signs and stop lights, driving into oncoming traffic, and weaving dangerously in and out of traffic.

Due to the heavy traffic and for the safety of other citizens, Hemet PD supervisors terminated the chase. “When the driver continued to accelerate and drive erratically, the officers terminated the pursuit in the interest of safety,” Hemet Police Lt. Nate Miller later explained.

Despite no longer chasing Mitchell, officers continued monitoring the fleeing man’s movements with help from Riverside County’s “Star-9,” which was monitoring the pursuit from above.

Just as Mitchell had a chance at evading apprehension, his Mustang reportedly ran out of gas in the area of Florida Ave. and Kirby St., near Travelodge.

With his vehicle disabled, and as more than a dozen marked and unmarked units converged on the scene from every direction, Mitchell abandoned his car on the wrong side of the road and in the middle of oncoming traffic on Florida Ave., and fled on foot.

Within moments officers radioed that they were chasing the fleeing man on foot, who was running south from his car toward a nearby McDonald’s restaurant. Officers caught up with Mitchell outside McDonald’s, where the alleged suspect turned toward, and then began fighting with officers, while actively resisting being apprehended.

The sudden police activity, along with officers flooding into the area with their lights flashing and sirens blaring, sent McDonald’s patrons scrambling for safety, with some later saying they ducked with their children under the restaurant’s tables. Some used their cell phones to film all the activity and Mitchell’s arrest, and many immediately began sharing their videos on social media, along with first-hand accounts of what they were seeing.

Moments later, a Hemet officer updated that Mitchell was wrestled into custody after an officer deployed a Taser device. Officers then requested medical personnel to the scene to treat Mitchell for injuries he possibly sustained while being taken into custody.

Hemet police officers arrested Justin Mitchell after he ran out of gas during a police pursuit.

City of Hemet paramedics and an AMR ambulance crew soon arrived at the restaurant where they tended to Mitchell’s unspecified injuries. AMR later transported Mitchell to Hemet Valley Hospital for further treatment. Although it was not immediately known what Mitchell was treated for, a booking photo later released by Hemet PD showed the man sustained minor abrasions, cuts, and other minor injuries, to his face and head.

Mitchell was later booked into Cois Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta. Jail records indicate he remains in custody in lieu of $100,000 bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned at Murrieta’s Southwest Justice Center, Feb. 1.

No officers or other citizens were reportedly injured during the pursuit and Mitchell’s subsequent apprehension.

Click any image to open full-size gallery.

Timothy Franzese/Public Safety Incidents photo
Eddie George/Hemet News video

Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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