YREKA, Calif. — A military veteran in the midst of a mental health crisis led California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers on a high-speed chase that ended in a fiery crash on Friday afternoon, the agency said in a statement.
Around 12:30 p.m., CHP officers at the Yreka station were advised of a "possible reckless vehicle" driving at high speeds northbound on I-5. The report indicated that the driver was a veteran experiencing a possible mental health crisis.
Moments later, a CHP officer spotted a vehicle matching that description and speeding up the freeway near the North Yreka exit.
"The CHP Officer caught up to the suspect vehicle and the driver moved to the slow lane, passed other cars at a high rate of speed and began to flee the officer," the agency said.
During the chase, the suspect reached speeds above 130 miles per hour, according to CHP. Eventually the suspect made a U-turn on I-5 just above the Henly Hornbrook and Copco Road overpass.
"The suspect vehicle turned into the grass shoulder and was now facing wrong-way and accelerating towards the northbound lanes. The CHP Officer slowed, and attempted to block the suspect vehicle from re-entering the northbound lanes in the wrong direction," CHP said.
Instead the driver, later identified as 28-year-old Jesse Michael Devivo of Carlsbad, sped up and rammed the CHP officer's patrol car head-on.
After ramming the car, CHP said that Devivo tried to get out of his vehicle and run away — but his front doors were now jammed shut. Meanwhile, the CHP patrol car caught on fire.
"Thanks to the help of a witness, the fire was extinguished rapidly," CHP said.
For 14 minutes, CHP said, Devivo stayed in his vehicle and refused to get out, "and even brandished a sword multiple times."
More CHP officers and deputies from the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office arrived at the scene. One of the deputies, Deputy R. Stewart, was also a veteran of the U.S. military and was able to calm Devivo down.
"Deputy Stewart was able to get Devivo to climb out of his window on his own accord," CHP said. "Devivo was taken into custody without any use of force."
Officers took Devivo to Fairchild Medical Center and the hospital cleared him for booking into the Siskiyou County Jail, charged with assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer and reckless evading.
"The California Highway Patrol and other local law enforcement is aware of issues of mental health and has received training to help those with mental health disorders. We are grateful this incident was able to come to a conclusion without any serious injuries," CHP said.