CHP: Leaving keys in car can be dangerous

CHP: Leaving keys in car can be dangerous
The case of a stolen car leads to a dangerous chase that ends with a fiery crash, and two people hurt.

It happened Wednesday morning at about 7:15 at South H Street and Fairview Avenue. Highway Patrol officers say the Honda Civic had been reported stolen last Friday, and the owner had left the keys inside.

CHP Officer Greg Williams says a dangerous chase Monday also started with an SUV stolen because the keys had been left in it. Williams says many car thefts start with that simple mistake, and it can lead to dangerous consequences.

Wednesday morning, CHP officer B. McAdoo spotted the green Civic with paper license plates and no temporary registration. The officer tried to pull the car over, but it took off going north on South H.

Minutes later, the Civic ran a red light at Fairview Avenue, clipped a pick-up, and then smashed into a traffic signal pole. At that point, the car caught fire. The driver took off running, but he was chased down and arrested.

The pickup was driven by Bryan Halford, 46, and his wife was quickly on the scene.

"The next thing he knows, the green car was doing about 100 miles an hour," Laura Halford said. "And right behind him was a cop that just turned his light on, and then hit the car, hit my husband, and then spun him around."

CHP officials say Byran Halford ended up with moderate injuries.

In the case on Monday, an allegedly stolen SUV was chased down by CHP officers in northwest Bakersfield. In that incident, the SUV was first spotted doing doughnuts in a shopping center parking lot. Officers chased and cornered the car in a cul-de-sac.

At that point, the driver allegedly rammed a squad car, and officers fired several shots to stop him. In the end, the driver turned out to be a 12-year-old boy. He was not injured.

That driver also allegedly ran through front yards, sideswiped a parked car and ran over a portable basketball hoop. Officer Greg Williams said that stolen SUV had the keys left in the ignition.

Many Bakersfield drivers say they never leave the keys in the car.

"Never, never, never," said Tehachapi resident Melinda Keenan. "If they're not in my hand, I'm looking for them."

Bakersfield resident Chris Tisler said he rarely leaves the keys in the car.

"Not on purpose, but I have done it," Tisler said. "I think everybody had done it once or twice."

The CHP's Williams said a lot of people must not be taking the keys with them.

"About 90-plus percent of our stolen cars are opportunity stealings or thefts," said Williams.

He said on Wednesday at least three other cars were reported stolen because the keys had been left in the ignition.

In the Wednesday incident, the driver was Anthony Torres, 21. He was arrested after being chased down by officers and bystanders. Torres faces charges including auto theft, felony evading arrest and causing injury. The CHP says Torres was not injured.

A passenger in the Honda was hurt. The CHP says Miguel Pena, 24, ended up with major injuries.

Williams says car owners should think about the consequences of leaving those keys in the ignition.

"There's nothing legally wrong with leaving your keys in the car, but the moral implications, somebody gets injured all because you didn't take your keys out of the car," said Williams. "That's something I wouldn't want to live with."