High-speed chase ends in hit-and-run arrest | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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High-speed chase ends in hit-and-run arrest

B.H. Bose

A hit-and-run suspect was arrested by South Lake Tahoe police officers Friday night after a high-speed chase and, ironically, after the suspect was hit by a car.

Luis E. Esparza, allegedly, collided into the rear of Paula Kay Price’s Toyota Corolla as she traveled south on Glenwood Street. The impact of the collision caused Price’s car to spin sideways. Esparza then fled the scene in his maroon Firebird, according to Price and witnesses. Price, 43, was transported by a friend to Barton Hospital where she was treated for minor head and neck injuries.

Officer Rob Heindl heard the suspect was seen heading up Pioneer Trail, so he tried to cut him off by using Black Bart Avenue.

“I was going to try and head him off, but I spotted him sooner. It was a matching vehicle, with extensive damage to the front of the car,” said Heindl. “Plus, it was weaving across the lanes, showing signs that the driver was intoxicated.”

When Heindl pulled the car over on Fountain Street, Esparza took off again. A pursuit ensued, and Heindl was joined by fellow Officer Mike Dente. During the pursuit, which reached speeds in excess of 50 mph, the hood of the Firebird popped up, obstructing the view of the driver.

“When he pulled on to Carson, the hood suddenly went up. It didn’t slow him down though, he was still doing 60 mph while hanging his head out the window,” Heindl said.

Looking out the window to see, the chase continued through the Sierra Tract. On William Street, the car swerved into a ditch and hit a medal culvert, causing one of the tires to blow. While turning on to Lodi, the car spun out, and officers “boxed him in.”

“I was out working in my yard, pulling weeds,” said one witness, who requested not to be named. “Suddenly, this cop pulls out into the middle of the street. Then I saw this purple Firebird, with its hood up and folded back across the windshield, come fish-tailing down the street. The car whizzed past me, but the cops had him boxed in.”

The suspect attempted to flee on foot, but was knocked to the ground by one of the officer’s car as it pulled up to the scene. Esparza tried to get up and escape, but officers Dente and Heindl apprehended him.

“He jumped up and tried to hide behind a parked car. I jumped on him, and struck him in the mid-section causing him to go down. He tried to crawl under the car, but I got my hands on him and pulled him back,” Heindl said.

Esparza, 23, was treated for minor injuries to his knee and upper torso at Barton Hospital and later booked at the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office for felony hit-and-run causing injury, felony DUI with injury, and felony evading arrest in a reckless manner.

His bail has been set at $23,000, Heindl said.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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