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U-Haul Driver Leads CHP On Scenic Topanga Canyon Chase

(Photo by Wikimedia Commons)
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An errant U-Haul driver led a CHP vehicle on a winding chase through the scenic wilds of Topanga Canyon Friday.It all began just after 10 a.m. Friday morning, when a 2016 GMC panel van with a U-Haul logo on it driving the wrong way down Topanga Canyon Boulevard narrowly missed hitting several oncoming vehicles, along with members of a Caltrans work crew. According to City News Service, a California Highway Patrol officer who was holding traffic for the Caltrans workers spotted the suspect and attempted to pull him over. This effort was unsuccessful.

Though not quite as famous as Laurel Canyon, hippie chic Topanga is an equally storied and substantially more rural section of the Santa Monica Mountains just west of the city. Its rolling hills and ocean breezes provided an early getaway for Hollywood stars in the 1920s, and later served as an epicenter for '60s-era counterculture. Bohemian Topanga, as you may or may not know, is actually where Charles Manson befriended Neil Young and Dennis Wilson.

But anyway, back to the boulevard. The suspect, who was eventually identified as a 25-year-old Winnetka resident, continued south on Topanga Canyon Boulevard with the CHP unit in hot pursuit. City News Service reports that the chase continued onto several canyon roads before the suspect lost control of his vehicle and came to a complete, if unintentional, stop in front of 1036 Fernwood Pacific Drive, a lovely one bed, one bath 1925 bungalow painted a rustic dark green. This was not the end.

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According to a CHP statement, the suspect then drove in reverse on Fernwood to Mountain View Road and slammed into the CHP Ford F-250 patrol truck, causing moderate damage to the front of the state-owned vehicle. Then, continuing in Topanga Canyon's long tradition of iconoclastic anti-authoritatianism, the suspect just kept driving.

The CHP officer ultimately lost sight of the van somewhere in the vicinity of Sunken Trail and Valley View roads, and the search was eventually called off around noon. It remains unclear why the search was called off so early, in large part because the CHP doesn't answer their phones on Saturdays. We called the LAPD to see if they had any further information, but they said this was the first they were hearing of yesterday's exciting and scenic canyon chase, and that it "sounds like its their caper." Them being CHP, who don't answer their phones.

But it still wasn't over! Less than an hour later, a Topanga resident flagged down a CHP officer to report a suspicious person in the backyard of 618 Topanga Canyon Boulevard, less than a mile from the one-time home of the legendary Topanga Corral, a music venue that may or may not have inspired Jim Morrison's legendary "Roadhouse Blues."

Coincidentally, that same suspicious person was identified as the driver of the rogue U-Haul truck. He was "acting erratically and confrontational," and later held a knife to his throat and threatened to kill himself. In a moment of heroism that almost makes their lack of Saturday phone answering forgivable, CHP officers were able to track down the man's father, who then helped get him into custody unharmed. The U-Haul driver was eventually booked on suspicion of felony evading and assault with a deadly weapon and was placed under a 72-hour hold for psychiatric evaluation. City News Service reports that a knife and a hatchet were also recovered.