Visalia Police Chase Ends When OnStar Disables Stolen SUV

October 19, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A service that can unlock your car and knows if you've been in a crash made company history this weekend -- when it helped end a high-speed chase in Visalia.Visalia Police lucked out when they say a carjacker took a new Chevy Tahoe at gunpoint ... within minutes, police were able to not only track the suspect's movement but also trail him and eventually end the escapade.

On Lover's Lane, Visalia Police say the suspect reached speeds of 100 miles an hour ... until suddenly, the car police say Albert Romero had stolen minutes earlier began to decelerate through OnStar's latest technology.

OnStar President Walt Dorfstatter said, "We send a message to the vehicle that essentially takes the horsepower away from the thief. The vehicle is still controllable from the standpoint you still have power steering, power brakes, but you basically lose the ability to use the vehicle."

Officers say the suspect carjacked the owner of a 2009 blue Chevy Tahoe in front of a Central Visalia apartment complex, first ordering the driver and his passenger to give up their wallets and valuables, while threatening them with a sawed off shotgun.

Visalia Police Chief Colleen Mestas said, "It's my understanding there was another passenger who was trying to be argumentative slightly with the suspect. But I think the victim knew that he had OnStar on board and I think he did the right thing and he exited the vehicle."

Seven minutes after the suspect got away, police tracked his movements with the assistance of OnStar. Once the car was disabled, officers chased the suspect on foot until he fell into a swimming pool and was arrested soaking wet.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, 334 people died nationwide last year from accidents that started with police pursuits.

OnStar representatives say this is the first time since the company began offering the service in 2009 models, that a pursued vehicle was disabled.

"They asked us to slow down the vehicle and within a minute, we had the vehicle slowed down and they had it apprehended," said Dorfstatter.

Even at 3:00 in the morning, pursuits are not ideal. Visalia Police Chief Colleen Mestas says having this type of assistance brought a violent and dangerous situation to a safe and fast conclusion.

"Honestly I think that's phenomenal anytime you can use technology to end pursuits, the publics a winner, the officers are a winner and we still catch the criminal and put them into jail," said Chief Mestas.

Romero is in jail on several felony charges including carjacking, receiving stolen property, and resisting arrest. His bail is $100-thousand dollars.

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