SOUTH LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A police pursuit with a hearse — which had been stolen with a body inside the night before — ended in a wreck during rush hour Thursday morning on the 110 Freeway in South Los Angeles.
An L.A. County Sheriff’s official confirmed to CBSLA that the crashed 2017 Lincoln Navigator was the same one stolen Wednesday evening from out in front of St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Church in Pasadena. A casket containing a body was found in the crashed vehicle, the sheriff’s department said.
A suspect, later identified as 25-year-old James Juarez, was taken into custody.
The short pursuit started at 7:43 a.m. near USC, at Exposition Boulevard and Figueroa Street, when someone spotted the stolen Navigator and called 911. Responding Los Angeles police officers gave chase. The pursuit ended within about a minute when the Navigator crashed on the southbound 110 Freeway near the Vernon Avenue exit.
SKY2 footage showed officers surrounding the hearse, which had significant front-end damage. At least one person was taken to a hospital, police said.
The SUV was towed away with the body in the casket still inside. When it arrived at the tow yard, the casket was moved to a different SUV and transported to an Arcadia mortuary.
Sources told CBSLA that prior to the theft Wednesday, the woman’s body was being transported from the company’s funeral home in Orange County to its Arcadia location. While en route, the driver was told there were flowers in the SUV that needed to be dropped off at St. Anthony’s church.
So the driver parked in front of the church – with the keys still inside – and delivered the flowers. When he came back out, he found the Navigator was gone.