LA Sheriff's Department cruiser photo by John Schreiber

A woman has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges that she led Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies on a wild chase with her 9-year-old daughter in the car, in which she struck multiple vehicles and drove at high speeds and sometimes the wrong way on busy streets.

Margaret Ann Hassan, 30, was arrested March 9 and charged two days later with one felony count each of child abuse under circumstances or conditions likely to cause great bodily injury or death, assault with a deadly weapon and fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle while driving recklessly, along with seven misdemeanor counts of hit-and-run driving resulting in property damage.

Criminal proceedings against Hassan were suspended March 25 after a doubt was declared about her mental competency.

The high-speed, televised pursuit started near the Walnut-Diamond Bar sheriff’s station, went into the Inland Empire and back to Diamond Bar, followed by a nearly three-hour standoff with deputies after the car became disabled.

With armored vehicles surrounding three sides of the car, tear gas was fired into the vehicle, “and to the surprise of all personnel, a … child exited the rear of the vehicle and was brought to safety in the arms of an SEB (Special Enforcement Bureau) deputy,” Deputy Trina Schrader of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau said soon afterward.

Hassan was then removed from the vehicle and taken into custody without further incident, and her daughter was taken to a hospital for a precautionary medical examination and was released to the custody of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

The ordeal began with a hit-and-run crash near the Walnut-Diamond Bar Sheriff’s Station at 21695 Valley Blvd. in Walnut, according to Schrader.

“The pursuit stemmed from the female suspect (Hassan) becoming involved in a road rage incident with another motorist on the road, which transpired into the suspect using her vehicle as a weapon against the other motorist,” Schrader alleged. “Deputies were flagged down by the motorist who had repeatedly and intentionally been rear-ended by the suspect vehicle. Deputies attempted to contact the suspect, at which time she fled from them in her vehicle.”

A sheriff’s sergeant was involved in a crash while trying to take command of the pursuit, Schrader said. The sergeant was taken to a hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

Hassan allegedly led deputies through Ontario, Chino Hills and Chino before turning back to Diamond Bar. During the televised chase, the driver could be seen using the battered sedan, its bumper dragging, to push other vehicles out of the way, driving between stopped vehicles and on the wrong side of busy streets.

While speeding on El Prado Road in Chino, the vehicle narrowly missed head-on collisions with at least three vehicles while driving on the wrong side of the street.

The car became disabled on Diamond Bar Boulevard between Palomino Drive and the Pomona (60) Freeway after rear-ending another vehicle, and deputies surrounded it. They fired at least a dozen bean bag-type rounds into the car to try to break the tinted windows so they could see inside, then waited for the arrival of the sheriff’s SWAT team with crisis negotiators and armored vehicles.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva subsequently tweeted: “Thankfully @SEBLASD ended this tense situation with a peaceful resolution. Our deputies did not know there was a child in the car. The child is now safe, and the suspect is in custody. Bringing this barricade situation to an end and restoring order to our community.”

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