A 54-year-old driver who led police on a pursuit in El Cajon Friday night was killed when he plowed into a tree and, inside his truck, police found a lifeless 41-year-old woman likely dead before the crash.
The El Cajon Police Department (ECPD) said the strange case began just after 9:45 p.m. when dispatchers responded to a call of a domestic dispute at the man's apartment in the East County.
When officers arrived, they found the man driving away from the house in a red Mazda truck.
Police officers tried to pull the driver over at around 9:55 p.m., but he refused to yield. He ran a red light and a police pursuit ensued. The ECPD broadcast a description of the suspect and his truck to surrounding agencies.
At 10:03 p.m., a San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (SDSO) deputy with the Santee station spotted the suspect’s truck in Santee and began to follow the vehicle south toward El Cajon.
Officials said the suspect ran another red light and the deputy tried to pull him over. Again, he failed to stop.
The deputy chased him onto Cuyamaca Street and then eastbound to Fletcher Parkway, which turns into Broadway.
A few minutes into that leg of the pursuit, the suspect lost control of his truck and hit a tree in the center median in the 600 block of Broadway.
Police said the suspect died at the scene.
As officers were attempting to render aid to the driver, they made another odd, grisly discovery inside his vehicle: a woman was inside, also dead.
When paramedics arrived, they told police they believed the woman had been dead prior to the collision. Authorities determined the woman’s death was suspicious.
The ECPD’s Traffic Division and SDSO officials are handling the investigation into the crash, while the ECPD’s Investigations Division looks into the woman’s suspicious death.
Her cause and manner of death have yet to be determined. The investigation is ongoing and further details were not immediately released. The driver’s name and woman’s name have not yet been released.
One witness told NBC 7 the red truck was “destroyed” and, as the pursuit came to an end, police told other drivers in the area to remain inside their cars.
“It was trippy,” the witness added.
Residents where the 54-year-old man lived remembered he moved in with a woman before she was evicted. Neighbor Colleen Thornton said there was always some kind of drama and “noisy fighting” coming from the apartment.
“From neighbors I’ve heard that he showed up [Friday] night, and he told another neighbor he had a body in the car,” Thornton told NBC 7.
Neighbors also said the 54-year-old was a father.
The deadly crash shut down traffic in both directions on Broadway, from Cherrywood Way to Ballantyne Street, for many hours. Investigators remained at the scene early Saturday morning gathering evidence and working to clear the crash site.
Pieces of the red truck were strewn about the roadway along with other debris from the wreck. The tree hit by the truck was also in pieces.
Another sedan that also appeared damaged from a crash was also stalled at the scene, though at this point, it is unclear if that vehicle was in any way involved in the pursuit and collision of the red truck.