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California gunman leads police on car chase with injured in trunk

By Eric M. Johnson

(Reuters) - A gunman with two captives in the trunk of his car opened fire at passing vehicles and bystanders during a chaotic, hour-long car chase with police on Friday near Ridgecrest, California, before police shot him dead in a gunbattle, authorities said.

Earlier in the day, a woman was killed and a man sustained "multiple gunshot wounds" in an attack, and the male victim told police the gunman's identity, Kern County Sheriff's Office spokesman Ray Pruitt said.

That suspect was spotted by police from Ridgecrest, which is about 150 miles north of Los Angeles, according to Michael Whorf, a senior deputy with the sheriff's office.

The suspect, whose identity the police has not released, did not stop when an officer followed him at about 7 a.m. PDT (1400 GMT), and a chase began.

"During the pursuit, the suspect fired at passersby, passing vehicles, and the officers pursuing him," Whorf said. "The suspect started firing multiple times at different places as the vehicle was moving ... as he was driving."

The chase ended when the man pulled to the roadside and began shooting into the trunk. As many as seven officers opened fire and killed him, Pruitt said.

At one point, the suspect, speeding in a black Dodge car south on U.S. Route 395, crossed lanes and appeared to try to force oncoming vehicles off the road, Pruitt said.

Whorf said the chase ended at about 8:15 PDT (1515 GMT)roughly 50 miles south of Ridgecrest.

Officers found two injured victims, a man and a woman who had each been shot, in the trunk of the suspect's vehicle. They were taken to a local hospital for treatment, Whorf said.

It was unclear when the two had been shot, or where and when the suspect had seized them.

"The two are expected to live," Pruitt said, adding they were airlifted to Antelope Valley Hospital where they were being treated. A hospital spokeswoman could not provide details on their conditions.

A stretch of at least 8 miles of U.S. Route 395, which runs north-south, was closed because of the incident, said California Highway Patrol spokeswoman Darlena Dotson.

Ridgecrest, which has some 28,000 residents, is adjacent to the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in an otherwise remote area flanked by four mountain ranges.

Local television station KERO, which visited the scene of the initial shooting, reported that it occurred at a home in Ridgecrest.

After that attack, the suspect apparently called a Ridgecrest police officer with whom he was acquainted and said he wanted to go to the police station to kill police officers there but felt he would be outgunned, Pruitt said.

The suspect told the officer that instead, he would go wreak havoc elsewhere, Pruitt said.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle, Tim Gaynor in Phoenix, and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg McCune, Leslie Gevirtz and Mohammad Zargham)

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