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California Highway Patrol Updates Reporters

Aired July 5, 2002 - 11:07   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Apparently, a California Highway Patrol officer there on the scene is giving an impromptu briefing. Let's listen in.

PAUL MCCARTHY, CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL: ... however, San Mateo County Sheriff's Department has put up a negotiator and SWAT teams up there and they're making efforts to get these people out of the car through their own voluntary efforts. So we want to get them out of the car without any force being used if we can.

REPORTER: Is it safe to say you guys are here for the long haul? You've got a lot of people out here just pretty calm.

MCCARTHY: We're going to be out in this area trying to take care of the matter in a safe and expeditious manner. We're not trying to force the issue so it may take a little while.

We're doing everything we possibly can to make sure the traffic continues in a safe and expeditious manner. So we've closed a lot of the ramps on southbound 101, we're diverting traffic. We're strongly encouraging people to stay off of Highway 101 southbound anywhere in San Mateo County because they're going to run into delays.

Use Highway 280, use El Camino -- use an alternate route. If you're traveling across the bay try not to come across the Dumbarton Bridge (ph) and try to get on southbound 101 because you'll find you'll be diverted.

REPORTER: Are you acting under the assumption that they're armed? Do they appear distraught? Can you describe a little bit for us what it's like?

MCCARTHY: I have no idea what the state of mind in the -- of the people in the vehicle is right now. But we have to treat this situation as if there could be injury to someone -- either the law enforcement or these people. And we want to make every effort to get them out of the vehicle without injury. So we're going to take it as if they were distraught or if they're upset or we're going to treat them with due care.

REPORTER: You don't know if they're armed?

MCCARTHY: We have no idea -- we have no idea whether or not they're armed. REPORTER: What's the -- how do you go about getting them out of the car?

MCCARTHY: Right now the San Mateo County SWAT team is setting up around the vehicle and tactically I can't make any comment on what they're doing because they operate in a certain manner and if I were to comment on their tactics it might compromise their safety.

REPORTER: What's the deal with the gas can?

MCCARTHY: As far as I understand, the individual seated in the driver's seat took a container that's commonly used to transport gasoline and pour a fluid over himself. So right now there could be a possibility that that individual is covered with a combustible liquid so we have to consider the risk of fire. So, again, there's another factor involved there and that's why we're being very cautious with this and we want to make sure that we use due care and do everything to get these people out safely.

REPORTER: Did he pour it on the passenger as well or just himself?

MCCARTHY: Right now we're not sure whether or not any of this fluid got on the passenger. However, if it is a combustible fluid inside a vehicle, the possibility of suffering injury to the passenger is very high. So . . .


MCCARTHY: Excuse me?

REPORTER: That has happened since they have been sitting here?

MCCARTHY: After they stopped the vehicle the driver poured what appeared to be a combustible fluid over himself -- that's correct.

REPORTER: Is it a guy and a girl or two guys? Can you tell?

MCCARTHY: As I understand it, the driver's a male and I don't know the gender of the passenger.

REPORTER: Is there a possibility there may be a person in the backseat as well? Is there . . .

MCCARTHY: And as far as I understand there are two people seated in the vehicle right now. I don't know if there's a third. I don't know their seating positions either. There are two people in the vehicle as I understand it right now.

REPORTER: Can you tell us what kind of a vehicle it is?

MCCARTHY: It's a Mercury as far I know. I don't know exactly the make or model.

REPORTER: And how close are you guys -- the SWAT team? MCCARTHY: And I can't even guesstimate. I was back at the command post and I saw that they were starting to set up -- were moving a little bit closer to the vehicle. But, again, how their tactics work and what they're going to do really can't be discussed because it might compromise the safety of the individuals.

REPORTER: Why was this car originally pulled over?

MCCARTHY: Just before 5:00 -- around 4:40 a.m. the vehicle was on the right shoulder. Our officers stopped behind it as if it was a disabled vehicle. When they went up to contact the people inside the vehicle it pulled away and sped down the freeway.

Just for safety's sake we wanted to contact these individuals so the officers followed it. As they attempted to stop this vehicle it began to speed away, traveling through all three lanes on the freeway. It was traveling in excess of 100 miles an hour so obviously there's something wrong with the driver of this vehicle that they're speeding away from the police -- be it they don't want to be contacted or there's some other issue. But we -- that's why we stayed behind the vehicle and followed it.

REPORTER: At 580 is where it started?

MCCARTHY: Let me start . . .

REPORTER: Is 580 where it started?


REPORTER: Can you describe how long it is that a roadway can remain closed when people decide to go in and bring an end to it? Is there a standard procedure? I know not in this case particularly but how long can you keep a roadway closed?

MCCARTHY: Well, the California Highway Patrol wants to make sure there's safety for the people involved first. We also want to make sure that our roadways remain open because this is a vital artery for the Bay Area. Particularly on the peninsula Highway 101 services very any commuters.

We want to make every effort to get this freeway open as fast as possible but we can't say definitively when we're going to open the freeway -- it's all contingent upon how fast we can get these people out of the vehicle.


MCCARTHY: As far as I understand we're contacting through the use of public address systems on the patrol vehicles. I also understand the San Mateo County SWAT team has a negotiator out there who is going to be contacting the people inside the vehicle.

REPORTER: What do you mean by a public address system?

MCCARTHY: Yeah. REPORTER: What do you mean by that?

MCCARTHY: Each control vehicle is equipped with a speaker and you can speak through the speaker -- a loud speaker so it's a PA system -- public address.


MCCARTHY: Not as I'm aware of yet.

REPORTER: The CHP -- you still have your guns drawn and SWAT teams going in. Are you guys working together or are they taking over?

MCCARTHY: Right now there are units that are in position -- in a felony position -- so they do have their weapons out. However, I don't know whether or not they're going to be relieved by the SWAT team or they're going to remain in position -- that's up to the SWAT team and their command.

UNKNOWN MALE: That is Paul McCarthy -- M-C-C-A-R-T-H-Y. Paul McCarthy.

O'BRIEN: All right. That apparently was Paul McCarthy. We were wondering that from this vantage point. Officer Paul McCarthy with the California Highway Patrol giving us an update.

Let's turn it now to one of his colleagues in uniform -- Officer Levy Barnes with us on the line.

Officer Barnes, we missed the top part of the statement there by Officer McCarthy. Do we know much about the relationship between the driver and the passenger? Is it being -- well, is the assumption that this is a hostage situation right now?

LEVY BARNES, CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL: Miles, as of right now at CHP we do don't know whether or not this party is a willing or unwilling participant in this pursuit -- in this failure to surrender after the pursuit. So as negotiators talk to this individual maybe we'll find out some more.

O'BRIEN: All right. And as far as the tactics right now -- and Officer McCarthy's point are well taken -- you don't want to compromise any strategy or tactics that would undermine this effort. But, having said all of that, if you could just give us the broad philosophy here. When a SWAT team is involved in a situation like this where apparently at least one person is -- has been bathed in what appears to be gasoline?

BARNES: Yes -- we had a report of that. However, as I was -- as Paul indicated, California Highway Patrol's first priority is safety and I'm sure the SWAT team -- they are in agreement to try to get these parties to surrender and trying to get this situation to end peacefully -- as peacefully as possible.

There's no known weapons in the vehicle at this time so to take abrupt action, which could lead to loss of life -- we don't want to do that.

O'BRIEN: I guess it is an axiom that time is on the side of the negotiators in these situations. But then, again, presumably there is quite literally a combustible situation inside that vehicle.


O'BRIEN: How do those two opposite types of situations mesh in these situations?

BARNES: Well, I don't know if these parties have done this just primarily to harm themselves or in the process maybe to hurt the officers at the scene. So what the SWAT team is going to do is to try to just get the situation resolved as quickly and as safely as possible.

So, of course, we don't want the freeway to be tied up for an unlimited time period, however, we're going to leave that up to the negotiators to decide at what point they're going to end this.

O'BRIEN: All right -- if you're familiar with the San Francisco Bay Area you are familiar with the 101. This is an important an artery as any road in that area. This is, however, a day that many people are taking a day off from the office. Can you just give us a sense of the traffic situation right now, Officer Barnes?

BARNES: Well, initially just following this incident traffic was pretty heavy going in the southbound direction. It was commute also in the northbound. However, what we've done is stopped traffic about six to seven miles north of this location at Highway 92 giving motorists another route to use, which would be westbound 92 up to Highway 280 and go north 280 from there. And if they'd like to they can get back over to 101 just north of -- or should I say just south of University.

And so because we've taken this action southbound traffic on 101 has really gotten a whole lot lighter.

O'BRIEN: OK. And as far as -- the words to the wise I guess -- for people who are thinking about getting from San Francisco to San Jose today, tell them to stay home -- forget about it?

BARNES: No. Just think of alternate routes that you might want to use. There are -- there's Highway 880 going from the Oakland area down south to San Jose. And, as I mentioned earlier, Highway 280 and you can pick that up over in the San Francisco area. So those are alternate routes that folks can use other than just 101.

O'BRIEN: All right -- Officer Levy Barnes of the California Highway Patrol We appreciate your time on a very busy day. We hope you'll stay close the phone for us as we track this story very closely out of Palo Alto, California.




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