Police have arrested an armed carjacking suspect accused of kidnapping a teen and his baseball coach and forcing them to drive him north from a San Diego ballpark.
Authorities arrested suspect Ira Stringer, 45, after a high-speed pursuit from city of Orange to Riverside County, where California Highway Patrol officers put out spike strips after a 45-mile pursuit.
The initial alleged carjacking and kidnapping began at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 23 when 16-year-old Jack Spencer was preparing for upcoming tryouts with his 28-year-old baseball coach, Dylan Graham, at Hickman field in Kearny Mesa when, they say, a man approached them with a handgun.
He forced the duo into the coach's Jeep Latitude and ordered them to drive him to Ramona, according to SDPD Robbery Unit Commander Todd Griffin.
With the coach in the driver’s seat, the teen in the front passenger seat and the suspect in the back, they drove until they reached the mountains near Ramona. The suspect told the pair he would let them go near Ramona, but after making a call, he told them his plans had changed. Police later said the suspect pretended to make a call to make it appear as if someone was assisting him.
Graham told NBC7 he remembers thinking Stringer was going to kill them, but was just waiting for the right time. He said he began thinking about an escape route to keep he and Jack alive.
When Stringer pulled out a cigarette and began smoking, Graham lunged at the suspect and grabbed his gun.
As they struggled over the weapon, two shots were fired into the roof of the car and the Jeep veered off the road, crashing at San Vicente and Wildcat Canyon roads in Ramona. The coach told the teen to run, and Jack ran up to the road and flagged down a car. He ended up at the San Diego Sheriff Department's Ramona Substation.
Meanwhile, Graham and Stringer both got out of the car, SDPD said. Graham ran to another passing car and asked for help. As he spoke with the person in the car, Stringer came up behind him. At that point, Graham fired two shots at the man's feet as he feared for his life.
The shots delayed Stringer's actions. He ran up to another stopped car, driven by an elderly woman, and demanded she drive off, telling her he had a gun. The 79-year-old driver who picked him up eventually jumped out of the car, which was later found abandoned in a parking lot at Barona Casino.
A man was only in the store for a few minutes, police said, when he went back to his car and came back with a shotgun, demanding gasoline in his car and threatening to kill the clerk if he disobeyed him. Once the pump was connected to the car, the clerk walked back inside. A man then drove off, heading northbound on Lemon Grove Avenue.
After reviewing video surveillance, police determined the suspect in the video looked like a man who had been involved with a robbery on Tuesday, Dec. 23.
At 11:50 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 26, a suspect later identified as Stringer went into a Circle K on the 2500 block of E Chapman Avenue in the City of Orange, Orange police said. Stringer allegedly walked in and pointed a gun at three victims in the store. He demanded the clerk place money on his gas pump and give him a pack of cigarettes. He demanded one victim go out to pump his gas while the third victim was asked to leave.
As his Buick Lacrosse left the station, a security guard followed and notified police, police said.
When police attempted to stop Stringer, he kept driving, leading police on what would become a 45-mile pursuit from Orange County to Riverside County. CHP officers put out spike strips and successfully disabled his car, police said.
After two hours of negotiation during a SWAT standoff, the suspect threw his gun out of the car and surrendered to the Riverside Police SWAT team. Orange police officers took him into custody.
No further information was immediately available.