Trucker Reportedly Rams Two Dozen Vehicles During 40-Mile Freeway Rampage
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A truck driver in an 18-wheel rig rammed more than two dozen vehicles during a 40-mile freeway rampage, then told police he only hit people who ″wouldn’t get out of my way,″ authorities said.
The rampage caused only minor injuries, authorities said.
The driver, identified as Charley Tom Lee Jr., 25, of Haltom City, Texas, refused police orders to stop and was taken into custody Wednesday after his brakes locked on the Hollywood Freeway, officials said.
The driver was arrested for investigation of assault with a deadly weapon - his truck, said California Highway Patrol spokesman Mike Maas. He was also arrested for investigation of possessing narcotics, evading arrest, reckless driving and possessing a concealed, loaded weapon, Maas said.
Authorities said tests indicated he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Jerry Johnston, a dispatcher with Fort Worth, Texas-based Lisa Motor Lines Inc., said Lee has worked with the firm for about two years. The tractor- trailer rig was bound for Los Angeles with a load of ironing boards.
″We are on top of the situation and have notified our insurance people. We don’t know anything more right now,″ said Wendal Short, the company’s safety director.
As of today at least 24 accident reports had been made, although authorities believe others may have occurred, Maas said. About a dozen CHP officers, a police helicopter and a canine unit chased Lee through afternoon rush-hour traffic.
″His method was to run up behind a car going 15 to 25 mph, faster than the intended victim and then accelerate,″ said Sgt. Bruce Wiedmer, who saw the driver ram five cars.
″Those people who would get out of my way, I wouldn’t hit. But if they wouldn’t get out of my way, I would hit them,″ CHP Officer Bruce Hanson quoted Lee as saying after he was arrested.
No one involved in the crashes was hospitalized, said CHP Officer Shirley Gaines. ″We had three people complain of pain,″ she said.
″He’s been one of our very best drivers and is a very nice person, I have no explanation for what happened,″ Johnston said.
On the rear of the truck was a sign that read, ″How am I doing? If you see this vehicle operated in an unsafe manner, call 1 (800) 441-3847,″ said Carlos Morales of Continental Towing in downtown Los Angeles.
An 800 operator said the number did not work in the Los Angeles area.