Deadly California Police Chase Caught on TV

A suspected car thief was shot to death on live television as he fled with a gun in his hand after a wild freeway chase.

The man, whose identity was not immediately released, was shot at about 5:45 p.m. Wednesday after he jumped out of the car and seemed to be heading toward businesses in a shopping center, police said.

Several television channels that had been following the pursuit aired the shooting, either live or in clips broadcast later.

Officers opened fire as the man leaped out of the car with a gun in his hand, Officer Greg Schirmer said. He was hit several times and dropped the gun but was reaching for a second weapon in his pocket when he collapsed, according to a police statement.

He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The chase began about 5 p.m. when a detective in this coastal city south of Los Angeles saw the 1996 Buick Regal (search) drive by.

He checked the license plate and discovered the car had been reported stolen Monday during a home invasion robbery in Riverside County, Schirmer said.

The nearly 40-minute chase continued on surface streets and a freeway at speeds of up to 100 mph through Carson, Torrance, San Pedro and Wilmington. The driver crashed the car into a freeway guardrail before speeding away and one a residential street came within several feet of hitting a man and his 4-year-old daughter.

He eventually returned to Long Beach and stopped in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant.

News footage showed the man running from the car and then tumbling to the ground as gunfire smashes a car window. His gun flies from his hand. He appears to be rising and reaching for something at his waist but collapses as gunfire continues to kick up gouts of dust near his body.

KABC-TV, which had followed the chase and broadcast the shooting live, immediately ordered its helicopter camera to zoom out for a wide shot. A reporter urged viewers to prevent their young children from watching.

The station later defended its coverage.

"Obviously, no one knew shots were going to be fired," William Burton, a station spokesman, told the Los Angeles Times. "The instant we did, we went to a wide shot."

KNBC-TV showed a portion of the shooting later but did not air the chase or its climax live.

It was "apparent to the seasoned eye that it was going to end badly," News Director Robert Long told the Times.

It wasn't the first time that local television stations have broadcast deaths as they occurred.

In 1998, a man who shot himself on a Century Freeway (search) overpass was shown, and two years ago, five stations aired the Los Angeles police shooting of a robbery suspect in front of Santa Monica High School (search).