Culprit of Last Week’s High Speed Chase Identified

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.

LA Police spokespeople revealed the identity of the man who led police on a high-speed chase last Tuesday, Sept. 8, from the San Fernando Valley, down Topanga Canyon and onto Pacific Coast Highway where it ended in a standoff. 

According to the LAPD report, the suspect was 47-year-old Wade Link of Los Angeles. 

Sergeant Ken Drucker of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Topanga Station said Link admitted to deputies that he was using narcotics during the time of the chase. According to a report from KBUU News, Link was jailed for felony DUI with injury and may face charges as steep as assault with a deadly weapon, though it would be up to prosecutors to prove that. 

Link started driving recklessly around midday on Tuesday. According to Drucker, he hit numerous parked cars. LAPD Captain Todd Hinkel of Topanga Patrol even said during an interview with KBUU that Link was using his vehicle as a “weapon to crash into other people,” describing Link as a “felony hit-and-run suspect” and a “person that had a wanton disregard for public safety.” Hinkel believed Link struck up to 10 vehicles in Topanga Canyon alone, along with numerous guard rails. 

Link did not seriously injure or kill anybody. 

Sparks from the steel axle of Link’s trailer created a seven-acre brush fire, which firefighters extinguished. KBUU reported the trailer actually started up to six brush fires in the canyon, but that passersby pulled over and put out the smaller ones with shoes or water bottles. 

Hinke said that officers had “no choice” but to pursue Link down the canyon despite the fire danger. Hinkel also said that one of LAPD’s patrol units stopped and put out one of the fires themselves. 

Hinkel told KBUU police did not start the pursuit, meaning the chase was not triggered by police attempting to stop Link for a traffic violation or similar reason. Hinkel said he believed Link only stopped driving “when his vehicle became disabled.”

“I think [Link] would have continued on as long as possible—as that vehicle would run,” Hinkel said. Link’s recklessness led LAPD to authorize up to five units to chase him, instead of the usual two normally authorized for a pursuit.

Officers eventually tackled Link to the ground when he stepped out of his vehicle on PCH. Drucker said no bullets were fired during the standoff, but police did use nonlethal bean bags, not to fire at the suspect but rather “for the windows” of his car. Drucker did not know whether or not Link was on the phone in the minutes before his arrest, though NBC Los Angeles reporters speculated he may have been because he seemed to be talking to someone and gesturing inside his truck’s cabin, as seen from their helicopter video feed.

Link’s arrest and the subsequent tow truck needed to tow his vehicle created a large traffic jam on PCH, as well as in the surrounding canyons.