Updated: 1:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 17: A Monte Sereno man is in jail today facing two counts of hit-and-run, assault and battery, and a felony for evading police charge following a dangerous high-speed pursuit Thursday afternoon in downtown Los Gatos that ended with his arrest by a motorcycle officer, assisted by at least two citizens.
Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Sgt. Joe DePrima said officers were alerted about the reckless driver, identified as Stephen Cage, 21, at 3:57 p.m. after he had struck an unknown object with the Honda Civic or Honda Accord he was driving. Police say Cage is not licensed to drive.
Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Motorcycle Police officer Mario Carrizosa arrived on scene about a minute and a half after the first call made to police. At Bachman and North Santa Cruz avenues, citizens directed him to vehicle parking lots behind North Santa Cruz Avenue where he found and apprehended Cage, DePrima said.
Witnesses told Carrizosa that Cage's vehicle was damaged. The officer raced after the suspect, catching up to him in the 100 block of North Santa Cruz Avenue and Elm Street, DePrima added. The suspect had reportedly struck a vehicle on North Santa Cruz Avenue.
With lights and sirens activated, Carrizosa was able to catch Cage after he turned left on University Avenue. DePrima says Cage was driving erratically, swaying back and forth, ran a stop sign on Elm Street, jumped the curve and struck a building at 51 University Ave.
He then drove over the sidewalk and shrubs, and came back onto Elm Street before entering the municipal lot behind the old Domus building, where he crashed.
A victim, Katrina Cabral, who was with her daughter, reported the suspect was focusing on her and steered toward her, police said. Cabral said that in trying to protect her child, she went behind a utility pole where the suspect turned the vehicle toward her and collided with the pole's guide wire.
At that point, the suspect put the car in reverse with Carrizosa behind him. When the officer saw the vehicle's backup lights come on, fearing for his safety and that he could get run over, Carrizosa jumped off the bike, which fell to the ground, DePrima said.
Carrizosa began telling the suspect to exit the car, but when Cage refused to comply, he opened the driver's door and tried to arrest him. Cage resisted.
Calling for help on his cell phone, traffic prevented fellow officers from getting there on time, DePrima said. "It was community effort that came into play in helping us," he noted. "It was great teamwork. Not that we recommend or ask that the community get involved, but the officer was having a problem because this person was struggling. If the confrontation lasted longer, other things might have happened such as a Taser being used, going up the level of force.
"It worked out beneficial that the officer had assistance there," DePrima continued. "The community was out there because this guy was driving recklessly without any regard for life."
DePrima said Los Gatos resident Ben Goldman and an unidentified restaurant employee who helped hold down the suspect's legs were extremely helpful to Carrizosa.
It's unknown whether Cage was under the influence of alcohol or other drugs and DePrima said investigators are still trying to figure out why he went on the crazy ride. "We're so fortunate that nobody died that day," DePrima said. "I've never seen anything like it. You read about stories where someone out of control ends up on a sidewalk and kills and handful of people. We're very lucky."
Cage was booked into Santa Clara County Jail on two counts of hit-and-run for striking the pole and the building and for the felony of evading police. Police also plan to press additional charges for striking at least four other cars, and assault and battery are expected after Cage appeared to intentionally aim the vehicle at Cabral and her child. "It's due to wanton disregard for life and property and how he was driving that we're pursuing these charges," DePrima said.
A handful of callers have contacted DePrima today, Friday, saying they were also hit by Cage's car. "We're still investigating all the hit-and-run incidents, but nobody was injured."
Updated: 12:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 17: Los Gatos resident Eric Macauley said the man being chased by a Los Gatos-Monte Sereno motorcycle officer Thursday afternoon was arrested following a high-speed pursuit that ended when he crashed into a utility pole on Elm Street.
"I witnessed the entire event, as I had just parked my car, had begun walking towards the shopping center when I heard the sirens and crashes. I saw the Honda Accord come flying up Elm Street and smash into the telephone pole," he said.
"The motorcycle officer did an amazing job in subduing the suspect, who clearly was not interested in surrendering," he said. "Very lucky that nobody was injured or killed, and that the officer was able to stop the suspect when he did, I'm afraid had he not this could have ended a lot worse."
Macauley also shot video of the arrest which is posted with this story.
A total of three officers and Los Gatos Monte Sereno Police Capt. Dave Gravel were at the scene, along with the department's detective bureau to help with obtaining statements from witnesses, DePrima said.
Updated: 5:40 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 16: Los Gatos public accountant Eric Childs, whose office is located at 250 No. Santa Cruz Ave., said he had called 911 at about 3:55 p.m. to report a man driving erratically Thursday afternoon through downtown parking lots.
The young man, who ended up reportedly crashing his Honda Accord into a utility pole on Elm Street, started racing at Bachman and No. Santa Cruz avenues, where he was honking his horn, Childs said.
"He started screeching down North Santa Cruz and turning right on Bachman, high speeds, into the wrong direction of the Eureka parking lot, where he knocked a parking sign completely out of the ground," Childs said of the afternoon incident that had many Los Gatos-Monte Sereno police officers involved and at the scene.
"I heard the screeching and looked out my office window to see him hit the sign, back up a bit then continue driving," Childs reported, adding that his wife, Los Gatos Community Foundation Director Sharon Childs had just left his office and he ran out to keep her out of the parking lot to protect her safety.
Childs said he then saw the driver continue to race down the parking lot, screeching to a stop and turning around, miraculously not hitting any cars.
The suspect went back towards Bachman, down the ramp, catching air into the lot behind Manresa, then turned and went back across the street again, Childs said.
"He was catching air in his drive from one lot to the next … people were chasing him down trying to get his license number … back to the Eureka lot and then turned again … racing back to the Manresa lot and down towards the end, turned and ran into a dumpster … then came back and went through the Eureka lot again, turning right on Royce Street and then apparently towards the Domus lot and Main Street," Childs described.
"It was pretty weird and scary ... the young man was acting quite crazy," he noted.
Several merchants with businesses in the 40 No. Santa Cruz Avenue block of downtown Los Gatos are reporting that a police chase took place this afternoon and that one suspect has been apprehended.
The police action is said to have taken place initially in the parking lot behind the old Domus building and Maids' Quarters and involved a motorcycle cop.
A dispatcher at the LGMS police headquarters declined to give details about the incident and said all police sergeants, including spokesman Sgt. Kerry Harris are at the location of the crime.
Unofficial reports say a resident flagged down the motorcycle cop and directed him to a suspect who seemed suspicious in a car. When the man made an illegal u-turn after being pursued by the motorcycle officer, he gave chase.
Witnesseses say he was "flying" past Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company on Main Street, turning left on University Avenue "zooming" down almost hitting a pedestrian or a vehicle, turning left on one-way Elm Street.
A car was said to be traveling on Elm Street and when he tried to avoid it, he crashed into a telephone poll, according to eyewitness accounts.
"The telephone pole was moving along with all the wires," said one of the merchants who declined to be identified. "People saw them coming fast and they ran for their lives."
Apparently the motorcycle cop was struck by the suspect and knocked over, witnesses reported.
Los Gatos Patch will update this story as more information becomes available.