A man suspected of stealing a GMC van died Monday after causing two collisions on the San Bernardino (10) Freeway in Rosemead and attempting to vandalize and carjack other vehicles on the freeway before being restrained by civilians, authorities said.
Witnesses reported seeing Ramon J. Lopez Jr., 39, of Huntington Beach driving a GMC Safari van erratically at 11:17 a.m. eastbound on the San Bernardino Freeway west of New Avenue when he struck a silver Scion xB and fled the scene, California Highway Patrol Officer G. Bembi said.
“The GMC continued driving erratically and moments later struck a black Volkswagen Jetta,” Bembi said. Lopez continued to flee eastbound.
The van then became disabled west of San Gabriel Boulevard and was blocking the express lanes, the officer said. Lopez got out with a small tire iron and began walking on the freeway, where traffic had slowed due to the disabled van, Bembi said.
Lopez approached a black BMW stopped in the No. 3 lane, jumped on the hood and began striking the car’s windshield, causing glass debris to fly inside but not injuring the driver or passenger, Bembi said. The BMW’s driver was taken to a hospital as a precaution for treatment of shock.
Lopez got off the BMW when a gray Toyota Corolla slowed to a stop in the No. 4 lane and struck a left side window, causing the glass to shatter, Bembi said. The uninjured motorist drove away.
When a Ford Explorer stopped in the express lanes, Lopez smashed his body into the left side, denting the left rear door, Bembi said.
“Mr. Lopez began cursing at the driver and passenger and grabbed the Ford Explorer’s door handles, possibly in an attempt to carjack it,” Bembi said.
With eastbound traffic at a standstill, a group of civilians tackled Lopez and struggled to keep him on the ground, Bembi said. They got off of Lopez when an ambulance arrived “and it appeared Mr. Lopez was unresponsive,” Bembi said.
The paramedics provided emergency medical aid to Lopez until San Gabriel Fire Department paramedics arrived, taking him to County-USC Medical Center where he was pronounced dead from cardiac arrest just before noon, Bembi said.
The CHP issued a SigAlert at 11:27 a.m. shutting down all eastbound traffic lanes. The two right lanes were reopened at 12:10 p.m. and the SigAlert was cancelled at 12:43 p.m., Bembi said.