A domestic violence suspect with a woman in the passenger seat of a sedan led law enforcement officers on a three-hour chase Wednesday through Los Angeles and Orange counties before he pulled into a shopping center and ran into a 99 Cents Only store, where he was taken into custody at gunpoint.
The passenger in the Honda Accord was later seen being helped into an ambulance after the chase, which began about 5:15 p.m. in the area of Firestone Boulevard and California Avenue in South Gate. A witnesses flagged down an officer in the area to report a man striking a woman in a car.
The driver took off when an officer spotted and approached the vehicle, South Gate Police Department Capt. Darren Arakawa said. During the chase, the woman was seen struggling with the suspect, who was reported to be a parolee at large, and a few times opened the passenger-side door, but did not get out as the car kept moving.
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On Thursday, South Gate police identified the suspect as Alexis Leondardo Avinai, a 29-year-old felon on post release community supervision. Jail records showed his initial court date was scheduled for Thursday.
The suspect drove on streets and freeways, running red lights and at times taking to the wrong side of the street, narrowly missing other vehicles and pedestrians. He drove into Orange County before heading back to Los Angeles County. At one point the car went through a park and plowed through a fence. South Gate police chased the car for a time before the California Highway Patrol took the lead.
It appeared an officer in a CHP cruiser was moving into position to attempt to spin it out and at one point the patrol car made contact with the rear of the Honda, but the suspect drove on.
About three hours after the chase began, the suspect pulled into a parking space and ran into a 99 Cents Only store near the intersection of Nogales Street and Colima Road in Rowland Heights, prompting people to stream out of the business.
"I saw one of the officers get into the store, shouting and yelling 'get on the ground, get on the ground'," a man said.
Officers ran into the store with rifles drawn and soon after the suspect was led out in handcuffs.
"In these era of active shooters, police just pursue these things. You can't let people get to innocent people," CHP officer David Moller said.
"He didn't have a gun," said a woman who saw the suspect running inside the store, "he just ran and tried to hide."
The relationship between the suspect and the female passenger hasn't been revealed. The woman was hospitalized and breathing, but unresponsive.