CHP: Highway 101 chase ends in vehicle fire, DUI arrest in Petaluma

A vehicle pursuit in Marin and Sonoma counties Sunday morning ended in a pickup fire and the arrest of a suspected DUI driver, according to California Highway Patrol.

Around 11:20 a.m., Marin County CHP officers received a call about a reckless driver coming from Solano County on state Route 37, according to CHP-Marin spokesperson Andrew Barclay.

The man, in a white pickup, was driving on the shoulder of the highway and running red lights as he went, according to a news release.

The driver was later identified by authorities as Ruben Villasenor, 44, of Vallejo.

An officer tried to catch up to the pickup as it approached northbound Highway 101 in Novato and saw the truck lose control and crash on the transition ramp, causing damage to the left rear wheel.

Upon seeing the police lights, Villasenor accelerated to 90 mph as the tire and other parts began detaching from the vehicle, authorities said.

Villasenor evaded authorities into Sonoma County, according to CHP-Sonoma spokesperson David DeRutte.

By the time the truck reached the Petaluma River Bridge, the left rear tire had “completely disintegrated and the driver struggled to maintain control,” the release said.

The truck caught fire, prompting Villasenor to pull over and exit the vehicle. He appeared to be under the influence of drugs and was taken into custody without incident, however began struggling with officers as he “appeared to be suffering from drug induced hallucinations,” the release said.

Medical personnel cleared Villasenor as a precaution and he submitted to a sobriety test.

Villasenor was booked into Marin County Jail on suspicion of driving while under the influence of a drug and felony evading officers.

You can reach Staff Writer Alana Minkler at 707-526-8511 or On Twitter @alana_minkler.

Alana Minkler

Breaking news & general assignment reporter, The Press Democrat

The world is filled with stories that inspire compassion, wonder, laughs and even tears. As a Press Democrat reporter covering breaking news, tribes and youth, it’s my goal to give others a voice to share these stories.

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