Deputies continue to investigate the stabbing just north of Morgan Hill

A high-speed chase through two counties, past schools and
through residential neighborhoods ended in a two-car crash about
11:40 a.m. Monday at the busy intersection of Main Street and South
Green Valley Road.
By Donna Jones

A high-speed chase through two counties, past schools and through residential neighborhoods ended in a two-car crash about 11:40 a.m. Monday at the busy intersection of Main Street and South Green Valley Road.

The pursuit by Monterey County sheriff’s deputies at speeds up to 60 mph started on Hall Road between Prunedale and Las Lomas, when narcotics detectives checking on a suspicious car discovered it was stolen.

A 21-year-old Watsonville woman, not involved in the chase, was taken to Watsonville Community Hospital with neck and head pain after the stolen 1997 Acura sideswiped her 2006 Toyota Corolla, a California Highway Patrol officer said.

According to Monterey County authorities, the driver of the Acura, 24-year-old Damian Baxter of Gilroy, also was treated at the hospital for minor injuries and was arrested on suspicion of possession of a stolen vehicle and hit-and-run, both felonies. He was booked into Monterey County Jail.

“Anytime we make the decision to engage in the pursuit of a suspect we always evaluate the level of risk to the public and whether it would be more of a danger to the public to let this guy go,” said Cmdr. Mike Richards of the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, who was unfamiliar with the facts surrounding this particular chase.

According to the Monterey County sheriff’s Cmdr. Jerry Teeter, narcotics detectives were watching Baxter, a parolee, in Prunedale and noticed him “behaving suspiciously” when

he got into the Acura. They ran the plates and found the car had been reported stolen. Detectives attempted to pull it over on Hall Road, but Baxter failed to stop and officers gave chase.

Deputies and two unmarked cars chased the vehicle on Hall Road through Las Lomas at a high rate of speed. At one point, a deputy, attempting to maneuver through traffic at a stoplight in Las Lomas, drove into oncoming traffic to pass traffic.

The pursuit continued onto Salinas Road and through the heart of Pajaro and over the bridge to Watsonville. It continued on Riverside Drive to Union Street and through the neighborhoods between downtown and Watsonville High School before returning to Main Street, according to Lt. David McCartney of the Watsonville Police Department.

California Highway Patrol officer Brad Sadek said Baxter was driving on the wrong side of Main Street into oncoming traffic when he approached Green Valley Road. The pursuing officers were in the appropriate lanes. The woman in the Corolla was heading south through the intersection on Green Valley.

Sadek said it appeared that the cars tried to avoid each other, but collided, first at the front ends and then again in the trunk areas.

The Acura sheared a traffic signal before coming to a stop, its air bags deployed. Baxter jumped out and fled across Green Valley Road, where he was captured in the Orchard Center with the help of Watsonville police.

Traffic backed up on both the exit ramp from Highway 1 and on Green Valley Road as officers investigated and the wreckage was cleared.

Teeter said two patrol units and an unmarked detective’s unit were involved in the chase, and that they received assistance from three Watsonville police units.

Deputy Chief Rudy Escalante said the action unfolded so quickly Watsonville units only came on scene at the end.

He said Watsonville has pursuit policies that take into account numerous factors, such as the seriousness of the crime and the safety of the public, police and the pursued, but that, since the chase was initiated by Monterey County officers, their policies would govern their actions.

Monterey County officials said pursuing officers, who are monitored by a supervisor during a chase, take into account what the pursuit is for, who the suspect is and what he’s wanted for, as well as conditions, such as weather, traffic and speed.

“The overriding factor is what is safe to do,” Teeter said.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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