A suspected auto thief led officers on a high-speed road chase from the East County to Escondido early today before crashing the stolen luxury car she was driving and getting arrested.
The theft occurred about 1:40 a.m., moments after the owner of the black 2003 Infiniti M45 parked it outside a 7-Eleven at Broadway and Mollison Avenue in El Cajon and left its engine running while she went into the store, police Lt. Jeff Arvan said.
The victim made a 911 call as the thief drove away to the south, and a patrol officer spotted the stolen sedan a short time later on Interstate 8, near West Main Street, Arvan said. The officer tried to pull the car over, but the driver refused to yield.
The California Highway Patrol took over the chase as the suspect fled to the west and then north on I-15, at times reaching speeds in excess of 115 mph, according to the CHP.
Near Via Rancho Parkway, the Infiniti collided with at least one other vehicle and crashed to a halt. Officers then took the woman into custody.
The suspect, whose name was not immediately available, was taken to Palomar Medical Center for treatment of injuries of undetermined severity.
It was unclear if anyone else was hurt in the collision.
Authorities advised car owners to never leave their engines running or keys in the ignition when their vehicles are unoccupied, even if only for a few moments.
"At this time of the year, this (type of theft) becomes more common than people would like to believe," Arvan said, adding that motorists often engage in the risky practice because they want to keep their car heaters or windshield defrosters on in cold weather.
"It's an opportunistic crime, and it's one of the easiest thefts to prevent," he said.