MADERA COUNTY – A police chase that began in Fresno last night and wound through Eastern Madera County, finally came to an end about 13 miles inside Yosemite National Park.
According to CHP Lieutenant Sandra Adams, the pursuit began with a routine traffic stop in Fresno. The Fresno Police Department chased a Honda with two occupants up Highway 41, and when things moved north of Road 200, mountain area CHP officers took over.
“In this type of situation, they will ask us to take it over because it is outside their area, they aren’t familiar with the area,” said Adams.
CHP also called in their air unit, however the helicopter can’t fly in the mountains at night because they can’t see the horizon, so they discontinued their participation once they reached Oakhurst.
CHP units out of Madera and two units from the Oakhurst area joined the chase at about 10:10 p.m., at speeds reaching near 70 mph. As they passed into the Coarsegold area, officers there threw down spike strips, destroying three of the four tires on the vehicle.
But that didn’t stop the pair inside the car. They continued to roll on the rims, now keeping it below 50 mph as they headed north over Deadwood, through Oakhurst and into Yosemite.
About 40 minutes later, some 13 miles into the park on Wawona Road north of Alder Creek, the vehicle finally came to a stop. The female passenger came out of the car, obeying commands from officers during the felony stop. The male driver, however, was less cooperative and refused to exit the vehicle.
“They were basically trying to just wait him out, and it turned into about a 30-minute standoff,” said Adams.
At that point, police were not sure how many people were in the vehicle, and the woman was not cooperating by giving up any information. So officers decided to use a “less lethal shotgun,” which shoots a bean bag round, in an attempt to break out the window.
The blast to the windows was fired at an angle, so as to avoid putting officers into a position where they could potentially be shot at, and the blast was unsuccessful in breaking the glass, “but it did convince the driver that we were serious,” said Adams.
The driver then exited the vehicle, and was taken into custody at about 11:25 p.m.
The suspect, Azar Alexis Moore, 34, of Atascadero, Ca, is a self admitted “Blood” gang member, according to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office.
He was booked in Madera County Department of Corrections at 3:19 a.m. on Oct. 11, on charges of recklessly evading a Peace Officer, being under the influence of a controlled substance, driving under the influence of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, and driving on a suspended license.
It is believed that the female was the one driving the car when Fresno Police initially made contact down in the valley, and perhaps the two switched positions when the Honda came to a near stop near Coarsegold after the tires were blown out.
Fresno Police officers took the female into custody at the scene “for the portion of the violation that they observed” early in the chase.
Though the initial contact with the vehicle by Fresno Police was because of a traffic violation, Adams says the police had some information that the vehicle had been released from impound in Paso Robles for possibly being involved in an armed robbery. That may have contributed to their interest in the pair and the car.