by Antoinnette Borbon
Testimony began this morning in the trial of an Oregon man who led California Highway Patrol officers on a reckless and dangerous high-speed chase during the early morning hours of April 24, 2013.
This young man from Oregon, Elijah Taylor, 21, is being charged with six counts, including the use of a stolen truck as a deadly weapon.
Prosecution contends that the young man used his truck as a deadly weapon as he allegedly tried to ram officers and oncoming cars on the opposite side of the road. Taylor, who allegedly stole the truck in Oregon, apparently decided to take a road trip, perhaps with friends, leading the CHP on a 40-mile chase. It is alleged that the defendant was under the influence of methamphetamine and marijuana.
Jurors were shown the video of the pursuit that occurred in the early morning hours of the date in question. The original CHP officer was stationed out of Colusa County. He said it was about 5 AM and he and his partner were going to “sweep” the county, from one county line to the line at the opposite end, and then call it a day.
He described the car cam showing a car about half a mile in the distance driving at what he estimated to be 95 mph in the southbound lane as he headed north. The car was swerving around other vehicles, so he flipped a u-turn and began pursuit.
He continued pursuit until the vehicle hit the Yolo County line. During the course of the video, through which he walked the prosecutor and jurors, courtroom observers could see the suspect weaving through traffic at a high rate of speed, at times coming within mere feet of colliding with other vehicles.
The officer said he was convinced that the suspect’s pickup truck would collide with another car because of the frequent encounters – that such activity would stress not only the driver’s reflexes but also the vehicle’s brakes, entire braking system, and tires.
He testified that he only saw one occupant in the car – the driver.
The CHP sergeant described the events as they unfolded. He said he pursued the suspect driving at speeds greater than 90 mph. Sergeant Shultz stated, “When I heard the call come over the radio and knew one of our own officers was involved in the chase, it made my heart skip a beat.” Officer Eduardo Garcia was nearly hit by the suspect driving the vehicle. The two had been co-workers for years, stated Shultz.
He said as he followed the truck down West Street, it began to swerve, straddling both sides of the road and going head-on into oncoming traffic.
Deputy Public Defender Dan Hutchinson questioned the movements of the vehicle. He asked Shultz if he were sure that was what the suspect was doing. “Yes, it looked like it to me,” Shultz said. But the video was unclear, due to the bright taillights of the truck.
Shultz explained that, after taking the long turn onto West Street, the vehicle appeared to be straddling the two lanes. It was moments later, he said, that “the vehicle moved over into oncoming traffic.”
Shultz testified to halting the chase once it headed down toward Kentucky Avenue. “It became too dangerous, I knew the outcome was not going to be good, so I stopped the pursuit.”
Minutes after the chase was called off by Sergeant Shultz, a Woodland police officer located the truck crashed in the front yard of a house on Palomar Court.
Shultz testified to arriving at the scene. He said that, upon arrival, he saw the truck crashed onto the lawn with the driver’s side door open. It had no occupants, stated Shultz.
Photos of the scene showed a Chevy truck in between two trees on a lawn. The passenger’s side door appeared to be no more than an arm’s length from the tree on the right side of the truck. The passenger’s window was seen to be rolled down and, as stated above, the driver’s side door was open.
Hutchinson asked Shultz if anyone had searched the vehicle to try to locate any identifying items. Shultz replied, “No, we did not.” But later in the investigation an officer found a purse in the backseat of the truck. It was unclear if any identification was found inside the purse.
A nearby neighbor, Mr. Olivera, testified to hearing what sounded like something hitting a fence, a loud thump. He said he was sitting at his kitchen table reading the paper as he heard the noise. He looked through his blinds and saw a truck that appeared to have crashed onto the lawn of his neighbor.
The truck was positioned in between two trees, he asserted. Olivera stated that he saw what looked like a “bulky man” running away from the truck. But, other than that, he could not see what the man looked like or what he was wearing because of the bright headlights.
During cross-examination by Hutchinson, Olivera testified to seeing “them running away from the truck,” but when re-asked the question by DDA Matt De Moura, Olivera replied, “I seen one man, I meant.”