Suspected car thief who led police in high-speed pursuit falls off port crane to his death

Nicole Rojas
Port of Los Angeles

After leading police on a wild goose chase, a suspected car thief fell to his death at the Port of Los Angeles on Wednesday (16 August), officials said.

The man, identified as James Llamas, fell off a shipping crane roughly 150ft onto a docked freighter, Port of Los Angeles spokesman Phillip Sanfield said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

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According to the Los Angeles Times, it was not clear whether Llamas jumped from the crane or fell by accident.

The 23-year-old led police on a high-speed chase as he drove recklessly through the Port of Los Angeles, the Times reported. The pursuit began around 3.10pm PT (11.10pm BST), when Los Angeles police tried to stop Llamas before losing him on the freeway.

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He was spotted by Long Beach police, who chased him to Wilmington, where he drove a Subaru SUV past security and onto a port complex.

Llamas eventually fled the car and walked up the tower stairs, the Times reported. His climb to the top of the crane drew a crowd of dozens and shut down operations at the container terminal.

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He was seen in a Lakers jersey walking the top of the giant crane as police officers waited on the ground. According to Sanfield, Llamas positioned himself in an "extremely dangerous" spot on the crane which was difficult for rescue teams to access. Llamas acted "erratically" while on the crane and removed all his clothing.

The Times reported that before 9pm, crisis negotiators and SWAT officers climbed up the crane to try speak to Llamas as a helicopter flew overhead. However, they backed off when Llamas became distressed and demanded they leave.

Llamas fell to his death as authorities planned the next step. "It ended tragically, not the way anyone wanted to have this end," Sanfield said.

Officials said the vehicle Llamas was driving had paper license plates and was reported stolen from a San Bernardino car dealer.

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