Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

A man was in custody Friday afternoon on suspicion of stealing an SUV with three young children inside and leading Westminster police on a chase before he eventually surrendered.

The father of the children — boys ages 11 and 5 years and a 7-year-old girl — parked his Lexus SUV in a lot behind a 7-Eleven convenience store at 9001 Bolsa Ave., left the keys in the vehicle and dashed in to buy water about noon, according to Westminster police Cmdr. Cameron Knauerhaze.

The suspect, who was not immediately identified, jumped behind the wheel and took off with the children inside, Knauerhaze said.

When the SUV collided with another car, the suspect let the children out near Magnolia Street and Hazard Avenue, Knauerhaze said.

A Westminster officer, who was off duty at the time, saw the hit-and-run collision and followed the Lexus, Knauerhaze said. A 911 dispatcher the officer called connected the dots and realized the off-duty cop was trailing the stolen Lexus, Knauerhaze said.

Additional officers joined the chase on Newland Street, and the pursuit ultimately ended at Magnolia Strert and Edinger Avenue when the suspect stopped and surrendered without incident, Knauerhaze said.

“At this point, we believe the target of the suspect was the victim’s vehicle, not the children,” Knauerhaze said. “We urge the public to never leave young children in a vehicle unattended. Not only can this be criminal and negligent, but unusual circumstances like this may occur, which could have ended up tragically.”

City News Service

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