A Dangerous Chase Analyzed: What Set Her Off?

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Police pursuits happen so often across Southern California but some are more memorable than others.

Sometimes, it’s not so clear-cut as to why a suspect decides to run.

CBS2’s Tom Wait looked into an amazing and dangerous chase a couple of months ago and what may have set the driver off.

After an ear-piercing, screeching collision into the front of a Starbucks, an out of control driver is somehow able to escape police.

The pursuit stretches for more than 20 terrifying minutes in the heart of San Marino the night of September 11. The driver, a 29-year-old woman, was blazing at speeds of 80 to 90 miles per hour, gunning it up and down Huntington Boulevard and into the surrounding neighborhoods, doing more than 20 loops.

The driver would finally slam her car into a utility pole near the San Marino Public Library. Paramedics had to extricate her.

Brianna Sandford was working at the Starbucks the night the woman slammed into the outside wall. She recognized the driver.

“My coworker pointed it out. He was like that’s what’s her face. She was just in here.”

The driver was Joyce Hsu. Sandford didn’t know her name at the time but said Hsu was a regular at the Starbucks all summer. Always alone, often ordering just water.

“She would spend hours studying – easily my whole shift. So at least 8 hours,” Sandford said.

On the night of the chase, she was in the Starbucks. Sandford says Hsu spent a long time in the restroom. She left, and started erratically circling the building. That’s when police were called. Hsu would not pull over.

Police are still trying to figure out why Hsu would take them on such a dangerous chase. Off camera we spoke with Hsu’s father who said he was estranged from his daughter and that she suffered from mental health issues. He said he had not spoken with her for several months – and wasn’t certain where she was living.

Laura Rhodes-Levin is a therapist who specializes in anxiety. Levin says if Hsu was suffering from prolonged mental health issues, there’s a number of triggers that could have set her off.

“Sounds to me that in her situation there had been a build up for some time,” Rhodes-Levin said. “It’s hard to make a snap analysis – but it sounds like manic behavior.”

Hsu’s injuries were not life threatening and while her bond amount was relatively low, no one bailed her out. The ongoing fear is, people like Hsu and others who are locked up may not find the help they need for the short or long-term.

“The problem is with mental illness, it doesn’t feel real to a lot of people. To their families, they wonder themselves, what’s wrong with me, but there’s nothing wrong with me, so maybe it’s just me.”

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