A Mendocino County sheriff's sergeant suffered minor injuries Friday morning when his patrol car was struck head-on by a stolen Jeep during a chase in which speeds reached 110 mph, sheriff's officials and the CHP said.
Sgt. Derek Scott was responding to a pursuit of a 2001 Jeep Wrangler that was driving recklessly on Highway 101 South. The CHP said the Jeep had been reported stolen before noon from the Auto Mart on Main Street in Willits and was being driven by Antonio Calderon, 23, of Willits.
CHP officials said they had one car following the Jeep in the southbound lane, but officers kept their distance.
"We had no idea who the suspect was, if he had weapons or (warrants)," Sgt. Lee Escorpiso said. "It was only seconds before the collision when the unit turned on his lights."
Meanwhile, Scott was heading north on 101 to assist, said Mendocino Sheriff's Capt. Greg Van Patten, and had just exited the freeway when the Jeep collided with his car. Van Patten said the head-on crash was especially unnerving for a department that recently lost a colleague following a high-speed chase.
"When we got the transmission, it brought up some pretty strong emotions," Van Patten said, referring to the death of veteran Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino, who was shot and killed March 19 by a suspect north of Fort Bragg. "Thankfully, this turned out OK, and everybody is fine."
The accident occurred near the Capella/Central Avenue offramp, shortly after Calderon exited the freeway at high speed, temporarily lost control of the Jeep on the rain-slicked road and spun around, officials said. In what officials said was an attempt to get back on southbound 101, the suspect crossed the yellow divider line on Central Avenue and ran head-on into Sgt. Scott's 2014 Ford Intercepter, totaling both vehicles.
Scott, a 16-year law enforcement veteran, was treated at Ukiah Valley Medical Center and released, Van Patten said.
Calderon, who suffered a bloody nose and cut to his forehead, was also treated and was later booked into the Mendocino County Jail.
(You can reach Staff Writer Elizabeth M. Cosin at 521-5276 or email@example.com.)