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Woman recounts frightening encounter with armed OC pursuit driver

A police pursuit that started in Garden Grove and made its way through other parts of Orange County Thursday afternoon ended in flames and a terrifying encounter for a driver in Costa Mesa.

The woman told NBCLA that she looked the armed pursuit driver right in the eyes before he crashed. The man later died by suicide.

“I’m just glad he didn’t hurt anyone else, but I’m also glad that I am safe and that he didn’t hurt anyone here,” said a very shaken Karina Ponessa, who lives in Costa Mesa.

NBCLA met her sitting on the corner of Victoria Street and Placentia Avenue after the crash. Ponessa said she was on her way to a patient’s house for home healthcare when she turned onto Victoria Street just before 5 p.m. and noticed a truck heading straight toward her.

We made eye contact in the cars and he had that humanity in him to swerve away, not hit me straight on.

Karina Ponessa

“We made eye contact in the cars and he had that humanity in him to swerve away, not hit me straight on,” she said.

The pursuit started as a traffic violation in Garden Grove and wound through multiple cities in Orange County. Police said the driver was armed with a gun.

Police stopped pursuing the truck for safety reasons and followed him from above with their police helicopter to Costa Mesa. That’s where he swiped the front passenger’s side of Ponessa’s Prius, before crashing into another car on Placentia Avenue.

Ponessa sat in her car, terrified, as Costa Mesa police responded and ran by her with their weapons drawn. In a cell phone video she took, the officers shouted, “Move back! He Has a gun! Get away!” as one pointed a rifle toward the truck.

“I saw a bus of people leaving the bus as all this was happening. There were multiple cars behind his that were escaping as well,” Ponessa recalled.

According to police, officers heard gunshots from the truck as the back tires began to spin.

The truck then caught fire as the tries deteriorated to the rims. Police said they could not approach it for safety reasons, later determining the man died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Afterwards, Ponessa sat waiting for a ride, processing what had happened with a heart of humility.

“The Bible was sitting right behind me in my car. I always drive with my Bible, so I know God was with me, and I hope that he’s with him as well,” she exclaimed.

As of Friday afternoon, police said they are still waiting on the coroner to identify the man.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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