Suspect Apprehended in Malibu After High Speed Chase That May Have Started 10-Acre Topanga Blaze

In the foreground, a row of LA County Sheriff's Department patrol vehicles block Pacific Coast Highway near La Costa on Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 8, as a standoff occurs between law enforcement and the driver of a gray truck. In the background, a firefighting airplane heads toward Topanga to fight a 10-acre fire that erupted in the canyon around the time of the police chase.

Update, 5:21 p.m.: All lanes of Pacific Coast Highway had reportedly reopened as of 5:21 p.m. Tuesday, following a full closure due to a police standoff following a chase.

An unidentified, shirtless white man was apprehended by Los Angeles Police Department officers after an hour long standoff in the middle of Pacific Coast Highway in eastern Malibu. The man allegedly led police on a high speed chase down Topanga Canyon and onto Pacific Coast Highway in a work truck hauling a trailer, which culminated in a standoff on PCH near Carbon Beach as of  2:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8.

“They’ve just been trying to talk him out of the car,” an eyewitness, nearby resident Matt Diamond, told The Malibu Times over the phone during the standoff. The driver’s chase came to an end outside Diamond’s home, with a half-dozen LAPD cruisers blocking traffic behind the truck to the east and another 10 or so sheriff’s department vehicles blocking off the road ahead of the truck to the west.

“He’s not happy; he’s not having a good day. I feel bad for the guy,” Diamond said at around 3 p.m., 15 minutes before officers eventually descended on the vehicle and apprehended the driver. 

“LAPD’s trying to talk him down. They’re … trying their best. You can tell they’re really bringing an effort to bring him in,” Diamond said, adding that officers were attempting to put the man in contact with family members.

The chase originated in the San Fernando Valley and headed southbound down Topanga Canyon Boulevard, according to multiple reports, then westbound on PCH, according to a Malibu City alert, eventually forcing the closures of all lanes on PCH from Sweetwater Mesa to Carbon Canyon. The closure caused miles of backups in both directions.

The driver of the truck was an unidentified white male, described by Diamond as appearing to be around 55 years in age. The gray work truck was towing an empty trailer that was partially on its side. The man was reportedly hitting and knocking other cars off the road as he sped away from police. 

NBC reporters describing the scene from their news helicopter speculated that the man appeared to have his right hand on a bottle or perhaps a weapon and that he may have been on the phone. 

According to NBC, LAPD officers deployed teargas canisters; Diamond reported hearing shots he speculated were beanbags, also coming from police.

“He was just–he was just yelling, frustrated words,” Diamond said of the driver. “I don’t know exactly what he was saying. He’s not happy. Obviously he’s going through some tough times in his life.”

Around 3:15 p.m., the NBC video feed appeared to show officers approach the vehicle with shields and weapons. The driver apparently willingly opened his door and stepped out of the truck, at which point a half-dozen uniformed LAPD officers surrounded and tackled him. They then handcuffed him and led him into a nearby squad car with no apparent struggle or injuries.

Reports of the chase and standoff came around the time a small brush fire near Topanga Canyon Boulevard was first reported, at 2:04 p.m. As of 2:45 p.m., the fire—a mile north of Pacific Coast Highway near Entrada Drive—was reported burning seven acres uphill in medium brush and moderate wind, according to LA County Fire Spokesperson Leslie Lua. It remained unclear whether the fire was caused by sparks given off by the truck’s trailer’s axle dragging along the road, as was speculated by eyewitnesses. Forward progress on the fire was reportedly halted by 3:17 p.m., with the fire burning an estimated 10 acres. Firefighting efforts included a first-alarm response with helicopters providing air support, Lua detailed.